SOURCE: Straight From the Horse’s Heart
by Debbie Coffey Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved.
If 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.