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Burning Man Site Overlaps Conservation Area

April 12, 2001|From Associated Press

RENO — The proposed site for this year's Burning Man festival straddles a new national conservation area in the Black Rock Desert and could face additional permitting requirements in the future.

But Burning Man organizers say they don't expect difficulty winning Bureau of Land Management approval of the counterculture event that annually draws more than 20,000 people to the desert 120 miles northeast of Reno over the Labor Day weekend.

BLM officials who will conduct an environmental assessment of the site said they don't foresee any immediate hurdles, especially because it is just 1,800 feet northeast of the site approved last year.

But they won't make any promises past a three-year window, as the BLM implements a management plan for the desert covering an area about the size of Delaware.

About half of the proposed site sits within the new federal desert protection zone established under the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area, which Congress approved and President Clinton signed into law in December.

The designation as a conservation area provides protection a notch below national monuments and parks, prohibiting most mining, geothermal activities and new roads, but allowing grazing, hunting and recreational activities to continue on existing roads and trails.

Burning Man organizers filed for the permit as Black Rock City, the name of the village that emerges from the playa floor, the vast dried mud expanse of an ancient lake bed.

Billed as the largest outdoor arts festival in North America, Burning Man is a psychedelic adventure that combines wilderness camping with avant-garde performance--a Mardi Gras-like celebration on a site that resembles the surface of the moon.

The festival has its roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it began in 1986, before moving to the Nevada desert in 1990.

The event culminates on Saturday night of Labor Day weekend with the torching of a 50-foot-tall wooden man draped in fireworks and neon. Artists toss their paintings, sculptures and other creations onto the raging bonfire to reinforce the celebration of art for art's sake.

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