Burning Man is a world famous week-long event in western Nevada that is a combination art festival, social event, and experiment in community living. Held since 1990, Black Rock City LLC applied to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a Special Recreation Permit to continue the event from 2012 to 2016 on portions of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area with a maximum population from 58,000 to 70,000 people. In addition to new data collected during the 2011 event, the EA analysis also uses in-depth historical data collected by volunteers and event participants.
Although the event is temporary, its infrastructure and layout has become a model for urban planners. During the event period and at its current population, Black Rock City is considered the sixth largest city in Nevada and the largest civic art festival in the world. The city includes residential areas, theme camps, art displays, and performance art areas. The total area encompassed by the city within the perimeter fence is about 3,200 acres. Several hundred additional acres outside the perimeter fence would be used for access roads, a temporary airstrip, airport parking, the BLM communications center, a ticket booth, a greeters’ station, and a 50-yard buffer. A 14,153-acre Public Closure Area would surround the perimeter fence and would prohibit access and use by the general public.
In response to the application and on behalf of the BLM, Aspen coordinated with BLM’s Winnemucca Field Office, Nevada State Office, and Denver National Operations Center to develop the proposed action, draft data requests, define assessment areas, and refine analysis methodologies prior to release of the Preliminary EA. Twenty-five (25) issue areas were analyzed in the EA with figures prepared depicting each geographic assessment area for direct, indirect and cumulative impacts. In addition, Aspen also prepared the following separate technical reports: Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas; Natural Lightscapes (Dark Skies); Noise; Socioeconomics (including Environmental Justice); and Traffic Engineering Memo.
Because a BLM decision was needed before the 2012 event, the Preliminary EA was released under a tight schedule in March 2012 and the Final EA, Finding of No Significant Impact, and Decision Record were issued by BLM in June 2012.
In 2014, Aspen won a National Environmental Excellence Award for NEPA Excellence given by the National Association of Environmental Professionals. To learn more about the award, click here.