A government proposal for a 10-mile wall around Burning Man could kill the festival in the desert favored by Silicon Valley elite like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg

source
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

  • Burning Man, the annual arts and culture festival in the Nevada desert, is known to attract many Silicon Valley elite among its 80,000 attendees.
  • The federal agency that administers the Black Rock Desert has proposed building a 10-mile concrete wall around the festival and making Burning Man pay for it.
  • In response, Burning Man organizers said such a proposal “would forever negatively change the fabric of the Burning Man event, if not outright kill it.”

Some of the most high-profile tech executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Google’s cofounders, are known to frequent Burning Man – the wild weeklong arts festival that attracts upward of 80,000 people to the Nevada desert every year.

But a new proposal, from the federal agency that oversees the land that Burning Man calls home, threatens to disrupt the inclusive, unstructured, and creative principles the festival is based on. Nevada’s Bureau of Land Management has proposed constructing a 10-mile concrete barrier around Black Rock City, the desert area where Burning Man takes place.

The proposal calls for “hardened physical perimeter barriers” and a contracted private-security fleet to screen those entering the event – which would all be paid for by the Burning Man Project, the nonprofit that puts on the annual event. The “perimeter fence” would “enhance site security, define the Event site, and prevent windblown trash from leaving the site,” Nevada’s federal agency said.

But Burning Man and its thousands of attendees are fighting against the proposal. Burning Man’s organizers said the proposals are in “direct conflict with our community’s core principles” and threaten to “forever negatively change the fabric of the Burning Man event, if not outright kill it.”

These proposed changes come as Burning Man’s organizers are working to secure a 10-year permit for Black Rock City in the desert, where the event has been held since 1990. The changes are based off the Bureau of Land Management’s review of the potential “environmental, social, and economic consequences” of Burning Man on the Nevada dessert.

The federal agency’s report said that implementing such changes to Burning Man would “prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of lands while providing for public health and safety.”

But one of the aspects of Burning Man that its organizers stress is the event’s “Leaving No Trace” principle. The process of cleaning up trash, or the MOOP (matter out of place) line, as organizers call it, is a group effort that attendees are expected to help out with after the event has ended. A dedicated Playa Restoration Team is formed to carefully sweep the area of Burning Man for any leftover trash camps have left.

Read more: What it’s like to visit Burning Man, one of the wildest, most surreal events in the world

The changes that Nevada’s land-management bureau are calling for amounts to nearly $20 million per year, the Burning Man Project estimated. Organizers said these funds could translate to increasing ticket prices by nearly $300 per attendee.

Burning Man isn’t scheduled until late August, and organizers in the meantime are encouraging “interested parties” to submit public comments to Nevada’s Bureau of Land Management.