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Federal agency frets about terrorism threats at Burning Man

• https://www.readingeagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article

Burning Man organizers say the U.S. government wants to place unreasonable conditions on a proposal to expand the counter-culture festival's capacity to 100,000, including more security searches and new perimeter barriers to reduce terrorism threats.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Burning Man organizers say the U.S. government wants to place unreasonable conditions on a proposal to expand the counter-culture festival's capacity to 100,000, including stepped-up security searches and new perimeter barriers that land managers say would reduce vulnerability to acts of terrorism.

Group leaders say the Bureau of Land Management's proposed stipulations for a new 10-year special use permit would for the first time require certified building inspections, maintenance of a county road and air quality mitigation that could raise their costs by $10 million a year at the annual event in the desert 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Reno.

The draft environmental impact statement points to the mass shooting at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in October 2017. It's apparently the first time the agency has analyzed terrorist threats as part of an environmental review for proposed activities on federal land.

While terrorism has never occurred at Burning Man, "several vulnerabilities exist," the 372-page document warns. It says the big crowds, "iconic status of Burning Man and widespread media coverage of the event could make the festival an attractive target for an individual or team of attackers."

Crowds at the weeklong celebration culminating on Labor Day weekend with the burning of a towering wooden effigy have grown from about 30,000 in 2002 to 79,000 in 2017. Attendance currently is capped at 80,000.

The draft issued last month says an attack could result in mass casualties that exceed the capacity of law enforcement and medical resources on-site.

"Since the event is a soft target with the potential to draw the ire of international and domestic terrorists, tactics from active shooter, vehicular assault and improvised explosive devices are real threats with a low to moderate risk of occurrence," the document said.

Without naming best-selling author Brad Thor's spy-thriller "Use of Force," it notes that "a novel depicting the Burning Man Event as a terrorist target was published in 2017 and depicts weaknesses in the event security."

"Limited access controls and lack of professional security resources at entrances points into the city, coupled with limited law enforcement staffing, are two critical event vulnerabilities," the agency said.

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