Burning Man Disputes Costs

Burning Man organizers are disputing the $2.8 million bill from the federal government for last year’s cost of hosting its week-long art festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

Festival organizers are taking issue with the Bureau of Land Management’s discretion over the counterculture celebration, claiming that authority has been overstaffing and overcharging without fully explaining the costs.

“If they can’t explain all of it, than we’re asking for all of it back,” said Ray Allen, the Burning Man organization’s lawyer. The case brings to light the logistical hoops and a growing backstage power struggle behind an event once considered an extreme camping experience that has since achieved widespread notoriety with millions in revenue.

This year’s sold-out festival Aug. 28- Sept. 5 is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the scorching-hot dry lake bed north of Reno. Burning Man estimates more than $30 million in revenues from the 2015 event.

The festival’s special recreation permit from BLM is the largest of its kind in the country. Burning Man agrees to and pays for a cost estimate before the event and the final accounting is provided months after, following a post-event inspection of the site.

A BLM spokesman declined to comment on the 2015 cost appeal, but its formal response noted that Burning Man execs were provided with a detailed summary of costs with receipts and that “(f)ederal government agencies are obligated to recover the full cost of providing a special benefit…”

BMan organizers are disputing the issue to the Interior Department’s internal appeals court, where an administrative law judge will decide on the case. This arbitration process, which could last more than a year, is commonly used for challenges related to grazing or mining uses and fees. BLM contends that Burning Man demands year-round planning and an unparalleled response to protect the public lands given its scope and nature.

The agency decided the 2015 event required 84 law enforcement officers. Festival officials say that many officers aren’t necessary given that more than a thousand Burning Man volunteers also patrol the event and that it has a clean record of taking care of the