Horse News

BLM’s questionable “uses” of public lands

by Debbie Coffey                                     Copyright 2013                               All Rights Reserved.

950bd597-8f80-4baf-a9cf-5d4bbfa17761_RTX130JDIf you want to see how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) shows bias in Environmental Assessments, you only have to look at what the BLM writes in EAs to round up wild horses, and then compare it to what they wrote in an EA to approve the 2013 Burning Man Festival, where 68,000 people, and their vehicles, recently trampled the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

Gene Seidlitz, BLM’s District Manager for the Winnemucca District gave a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) to The Burning Man Festival.   It’s kind of funny how “uses” of public lands that bring in significant amounts of money always seem to get a Finding of No Significant Impact.

The June 2012 Environmental Assessment (EA) for Burning Man, states this:

“Black Rock City LLC is responsible for payment of the actual costs of administering the Special Recreation Permit, including all direct and indirect costs, in addition to the commercial use fees.  The fees that BLM collected for the designated event period in 2008, 2009 and 2010 ranged from $989,000 to nearly $1.3 million.  In 2010, the BLM’s cost recovery from BRC for issuing the permit totaled $795,533.55, and BRC’s commercial use fees totaled $500,483.98 (Aspen 2011).

Agency, city and county personnel get paid overtime, and Black Rock City reimburses this cost.”

(This means BLM employees get paid overtime and Black Rock City foots the bill.)  This almost seems like giving “bribes” to the agency, city and county, doesn’t it?

The EA also included this:  “Mr. Wayne Burke, Tribal Chairman, stated the following before the Nevada State Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth and Employment: Allowing Tribe members to become vendors to the Burning Man Festival will bring money into the Tribe.  We can offer resources to assist Tribe members to do that.  We are looking to have our current law and order code pass through the Tribal Council. When it is passed, we will be able to receive traffic citation fines (Nevada State Senate 2011).”

“The Paiute also have received additional funding from BRC outside of the event period.  Mr. Scott Carey, Tribal Planner testified before the Senate Select Committee, stating: The Tribe is proud of our partnership with Black Rock Solar, the fund-raising arm of the Burning Man Festival.  Using the solar demonstration systems program that the State Legislature approved, we have been able to construct eight solar projects on the reservation.  This has led to substantial savings for the Tribe.  For example, the community of Nixon has more solar panels per person than any other community in the United States.  State Route 447 has more solar panels per mile than any other road in the United States and has been declared “America’s Solar Highway.”  We are looking to expand our solar projects into commercial-sized projects (Nevada State Senate 2011).”

(How are the Paiutes going to support solar without water?  Isn’t there a drought?)

The maps on p. 98 and p. 238 of the BLM’s Burning Man Festival EA don’t clearly indicate the outline of the Wild Horse & Burro HMAs in relation to the event area and roads/airstrip.

Under Wild Horse and Burros, the EA states:
“The cumulative effects study area for wild horse and burros includes the travel routes to and from the event and the air basin (see Figure 5-1).”
And then, “The wild horse gather plans would help BLM manage herds that currently have populations in excess of the Appropriate Management Level (AML).  While gathering horses and burros is stressful for the captured animals, managing herds at the AML is necessary to comply with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and protect rangeland resources”.

Do you think removing wild horses is really about “protecting rangeland resources?”  Shouldn’t the BLM be equally concerned about (and prohibit) 68,000 people from entering the desert (and kicking up dust) for an event if the BLM wants to protect the rangeland?  The BLM is closing off roads to public lands in other areas to even a few cars.

The EA also states “Cumulative Impacts from the Proposed Action.  The incremental contribution of the Proposed Action to cumulative effects on wild horses and burros would be largely limited to the duration of the Burning Man 8-day event and immediately before and afterwards.  As such, the Proposed Action would not combine with other activities to result in cumulative impacts to wild horses and burros.”

This sort of minimizes the impact of building an airstrip, roads, and having 68,000 people trampling around in the desert, doesn’t it?  What exactly constitutes “cumulative” anyhow?  2 days?  8 days?  An annual event with 68,000 people?  It seems everything is open to interpretation (and money).

BLM’s decision-making and policies seem to be arbitrary and capricious, and seem to be in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.


18 replies »

    • There is no mess left after Burning Man. Everyone takes their own trash out and volunteers stay to pick up anything that is overlooked. I wish our cities were that clean.


      • that doesn’t mean that all of the dust, roads built and noise from Burning Man don’t have any effect on a fragile ecosystem or wildlife.


  1. Yes it is insane. It started years ago as meeting for artists experiencing a spiritual connection with the Black Rock Desert. It is now a commercial contusion. How do you caution visitors to be careful with the sensitive playa nd then situate 68000(!) People and living quarters, garbage, personal waste, leftover food on what used to be pristine. It is an elitist abuse. And you are so right Deb, this is another multiple use that is taking more than its fair share of the rresources in return for money and influence. As for the Pauite connection … Well the reputation is not gettng better.


    • I don’t agree. This is recreating on Public Land and if we could have a yearly wild horse festival on public land attended by 68,000 people I think it would be amazing. This area was chosen because the structures could be put up here. This is an innovative festival and these are peaceful folks. Wild horse advocates have all been so critical of this but have they ever attended? I have not but a friend went for many years. They clean up after themselves. ALso they have designed things to be mobile and for human waste. Many festivals have been held on public lands and the Rainbow Festival is one that was always secret but was always big also but held in back country. The feds would always show up. This year the the feds were at Burning Man while they set up and they had to make a formal request for them to back off and stop intimidating the attendees. They have a self policing agreement in their contract. The amount of money changing hands in this desert area has been good for the locals. Since these people do know what they are doing I say let them. And I re-iterate, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have as well attended wild horse festival on public land? We are allowed to camp and fish and hunt there. Why shouldn’t we gather there? Gathering is becoming something the feds get nervous about. It is our right to gather. Tribes gather. There is not any carelessness attached to these people that I know of. Of course 68,000 people could cause some damage, but the intention is to do no harm. Why did you not interview the people who put this on and be fair about it?


  2. But how can you question Burning Man? Everyone whose anyone goes to it…even advos…its sooooooo PC, and what’s not to like about a big stupid drug-fest orgy in the middle of the desert?


  3. I wonder how the BLM manages the conflicts between a law passed by Congress to protect wild horses like the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act and provisions in international treaties that tell the BLM. FWS, FS, and NPS like 1992UNCBD Article 8(h) that instructs federal agencies to eradicate alien species even if there is doubt about the origin of a species because the threat alien species like horses and burros present to plants threats life on Earth. An unratified treaty should not be sovereign to U.S. law—particularly when it is created and implemented through deception.


  4. The double standard and hypocrisy is shocking. Money talks and the contradiction to such huge events being allowed with no problem WHILE scape goating and demonizing the wild equids shows the current state of affairs’ mindset, in which we all are treated like puppets of a failing democracy. “Public input” is nothing but a mock protocol to which the regime never ilstens anyway. While this event seems not from this world… neither does the BLM. Ruining the West, its heritage and our wild equines in the name of profit – while the masses in this very country are in sleep mode or don’t have a clue what is going down… it is of real concern how a world power such as this can mock its citizens and betray and tyrannize all tax payers in clever disguise. The double face acting talents were present in Reno, and they will be again in DC… putting on their shows and well prepared staged talks. I am still waiting for a break down of the holding costs, for which I inquired 3 weeks ago. Strangely, it mustn’t be in the system with the rest of the well coordinated schedules of their round ups and the rest of their agendas and administrative ducks in a row. America is being ruined and nothing will stop this regime unless it is dissolved and replaced. Just… how ?


  5. Click to access In_Truth_of_Wild%20Horses_on_Native_Lands_and_Tongue.pdf


    By Katia Louise, of Sioux descent
    Presented by the Wild for Life Foundation

    What’s all this about wild horses destroying America’s rangelands? Why are there some Native Americans, but by far not all, lobbying for horse slaughter?
    The American public would be surprised, if not outraged to learn that government agencies, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forestry and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have in fact been encouraging the eradication of America’s wild horses from public lands. Within days of the preliminary injunction that stopped a New Mexico slaughter house from killing horses on U.S. soil for the first time in 7 years, surges of tribal forces have begun to shun their own four legged brothers and sisters, known as the horse – while parroting pro-slaughter lines.

    As news spreads about what’s happening, people are asking why tribes would go against their indigenous cultural beliefs and values to label the horse, a species many tribes consider sacred and as family; to instead label them as “feral” and sell them for their meat. For one thing as revealed in the documentary film, “SAVING AMERICA’S HORSES: A NATION BETRAYED”, Agriculture and Forestry have threatened tribes with a loss of livestock grazing permits if they fail to implement management policies. In a statement made for the Confederated Umatilla Journal5, a newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Range, Agriculture and Forestry Program Manager Gordy Schumacher warns Tribes that grazing permits are at stake. “Without implementation of a management policy by the end of 2011, livestock grazing permits may have to be canceled,” says Schumacher.


  6. Click to access toxicthreattoindianlands.pdf

    The Toxic Threat to Indian Lands


    From the perspective of the waste industry, sovereign Indian land generally offers a friendly business environment with only a minimal permit process, little public input or review, and an opportunity to operate with little or no government regulatory oversight. These companies are fully aware that Indian lands are exempt from state and local laws, and that only a handful of Tribes have any environmental laws or enforcement mechanisms of their own.

    With no county or state permit process, and without a Regional Water Quality or Air Quality permit to apply for, a costly and time-consuming process is avoided completely – as is the environmental review associated with such permit processes.

    In its role as trustee and administrator of Indian land, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) under the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the lead agency for permit applications for waste disposal facilities. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is the first to admit that they have little experience or expertise in environmental issues. The BIA has no technical staff competent to evaluate permit applications, and no staff or regulatory infrastructure to monitor, inspect or enforce environmental quality on Indian lands.

    Despite this reality, the BIA is the only agency from whom a waste company must receive a permit for a commercial solid waste disposal facility on tribal land. Overseeing the operation of a commercial solid waste disposal facility on reservation land would be beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. EPA.

    No EPA permit is required, and thus no EPA inspections, monitoring, or enforcement would occur under current law once a facility is operating.

    In addition to exploiting tribal sovereignty, the waste companies often pose a direct and very real threat to sovereignty. For example, Waste Tech wanted to restrict the Kaibab-Paiute Tribe from having full access to their own tribal land, and attempted to insert this condition as part of their agreement with tribal officials. If the contract had been approved by the Kaibab-Paiute, the company would also have had the unilateral right to determine where access roads would be built, and the unilateral right to decide to take any additional land they desired.


  7. “The Paiute also have received additional funding from BRC outside of the event period. Mr. Scott Carey, Tribal Planner testified before the Senate Select Committee, stating: The Tribe is proud of our partnership with Black Rock Solar, the fund-raising arm of the Burning Man Festival. Using the solar demonstration systems program that the State Legislature approved, we have been able to construct eight solar projects on the reservation. This has led to substantial savings for the Tribe. For example, the community of Nixon has more solar panels per person than any other community in the United States. State Route 447 has more solar panels per mile than any other road in the United States and has been declared “America’s Solar Highway.” We are looking to expand our solar projects into commercial-sized projects (Nevada State Senate 2011).”

    This sounds like the Burning Man Festival has done something very good for the area and these people.


  8. Sorry Deb, but I kinda got lost in trying to figure out the dollar figures in the article but don’t doubt them. In addition to your figures, on fedspending it says that just since January 2013 and only through August (so imagine many more payment requests will come flooding in now that it is over) the BLM paid $210,736 for lodging, golf cart rental, fuel, beverages, computer aided dispatch and law enforcement for the burning man festival – out of my pocket. Reimbursement? I doubt it.

    But the main pain in my gut about all this is knowing the high desert is a very fragile ecosystem and a concentration of 68,000 people would make a GIGANTIC negative impact on our land.

    And a few wild horses and burros who add humus to the soil and help keep fire danger down and are part of the natural ecosystem are the ones “destroying” our land? BS!


    • This sounds like gouging the taxpayer? This is on the part of BLM and they are on the the outer edges of this. Burning Man has paid fees to BLM what is the difference in the fees from the these costs? Maybe this is being covered by Burning Man? Isn’t that the point of some of the fees?


  9. I’m sure that no horses or burros use any of the desert where the actual Burning Man event takes place (including the temporary roads and airstrip) as there is no water or grazing material there at all. Therefore it seems to me that there would be little “cumulative” impact.


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