Beyond the fence…and why it’s important.
For 10 days every year, tens of thousands of burners descend on the Black Rock Desert, gaining entry into that ephemeral, numinous Black Rock City on the playa.
Everyone arrives in cars and trailers piled high with gear, bringing much and leaving little, in keeping with the Leave No Trace principles of Burning Man. Compliance is mandatory, but constructively so. At the event are support groups such as Earth Guardians, Recycle Camp, and of course the hardworking Restoration Crew, which afterward spends nearly a month ensuring that no trace of this epic congregation remains. And the results are good—good enough for BLM to continue issuing the event permit each year. But does it end there? No.
The Friends of Black Rock – High Rock work tirelessly year-round caring for not only the land Black Rock City sits on, but everything beyond the fence, outside city limits. To the Friends of Black Rock – High Rock, the Black Rock Desert is home, all year long.
Black Rock City, LLC., its founding board members Will Roger, Crimson Rose, Danger Ranger, countless DPW, and many other burners are current members – they understand the importance of our work. In fact, our membership base is largely made up of burners like you, who love and appreciate this amazing landscape. Please join your fellow burners in support of the Friends of Black Rock.
So, what’s beyond the fence, anyway?
The playa that undergirds Black Rock City is only one part of the multitudinous Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon – Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. (Yes, it’s a mouthful.) Designated in 2000, the Black Rock Desert NCA comprises 1.2 million acres of mostly arid basin-and-range topography, along with 10 associated Wilderness Areas (meaning no motorized vehicles), all of which protected by law. There are 8,000-foot peaks, myriad canyons, hardwood forests, geothermal springs, and scads of wildlife. The land is publicly funded and federally managed, supporting uses as varied as hiking, hunting, off-roading, stargazing, land-sailing, and amateur rocketry. Plus a certain massive, annual human pilgrimage.
There are 16 such conservation areas spread across 10 western states—Nevada, Arizona and Colorado have three apiece; Utah and New Mexico two; California, Alaska, and Idaho each have one. They represent all manner of landscapes and were designed by Congress “to conserve, protect, enhance, and manage public lands for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations,” according to the National Conservation Act of 2000. The Black Rock Desert NCA is the second largest of these areas and contains some of the longest unaltered segments of the historic California trails left in the country.
The Black Rock Playa was chosen as the location of Burning Man for its potential as landscape-wide canvas. Blank slate, tabula rasa. One can be forgiven for experiencing an almost giddy sense of carte blanche upon meeting it. If you’ve ever driven across the playa, you know why we love this place. The bone-white expanse measures a remarkably flat 12 miles wide by 35 miles long, a more or less contiguous area spanning 110,000 acres. At its 70,000-denizen height, Black Rock City and its environs occupied merely 4-5 percent of the playa’s vast spread. But as more and more people travel to this area, the playa’s crust softens, grows friable. It gets tracked out. Meaning that as recently as 10 years ago, you could drive for quite some time without seeing another set of tracks. Not so anymore. More visitation leads to more impact, Leave No Trace ethics notwithstanding.
We’re here to educate these visitors about the area. We’re here to protect the natural and cultural resources. We’re here to keep this looking as you see it today.
What do we do?
We have an information center in town, staffed by knowledgeable folks who know this area. We have maps, guidebooks, history books, gifts and more. Here’s what else we do:
- Educational and exploration events like the annual Black Rock Rendezvous, held over Memorial Day Weekend
- Perseids Meteor Shower Campout – a great campout co-hosted by Burning Man Board member Will Roger
- Conservation projects such as noxious weed surveys and citizen spring monitoring
- Organized trash cleanups, removing hazardous material like barbed wire, broken glass, discarded tires
- Educate the public at events like Earth Day, Cabela’s Sports day and more.
Will this place look like this in another 20 years?
Twenty years might seem like a long time, but it’s not. Imagine your kids coming to Burning Man, and their children. Imagine them falling in love with the landscape, and becoming interested in what’s beyond the fence. Discovery is a beautiful thing. We want to keep it that way.
Your Support Is Needed. That can take many forms. Join our mailing list here to stay up on other things we do year round. Come out and lend a hand on a volunteer project. We’ll get you WAY out beyond the fence, to remote areas that very few people go to.
Donate. We know there are a ton of kickstarter campaigns you can and do donate to. We know you spend a ton of time and money just getting out here. We just want you to know that we need your help too. We have staff to employ, we have websites to update, events to run, education to deliver and so much more. Every dollar helps.
So please, join your fellow burners and donate now if you can, or keep us in mind for the future.
When you’re in town, stop by our office at 320 Main St. (across from Bar-Syl Bazaar during event weeks), or find us on the playa during the event. We can be found hanging around Earth Guardians or the BLM camp, both on the Esplanade, near center camp.
For more great pics of what we do, check out our sets on FlickR. https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsofblackrock/sets/