Burning Man Says It Is Being Gouged by Feds

Organizers say excessive fees are endangering festival
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2019 2:00 AM CST
Burning Man Says It Is Being Gouged by Feds
A view over the Burning Man Festival in Gerlach, Nev.   (Satellite image ?2019 Maxar Technologies via AP)

There are no ATMs at the freewheeling Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert—but organizers say the federal government is treating them like one. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, festival organizers accuse the Bureau of Land Management of overcharging them in annual fees over the last seven years, the AP reports. The nonprofit that runs the festival, Black Rock LLC, is required to reimburse the BLM for granting permits and providing law enforcement at the weeklong annual event. They say the BLM charges almost $3 million a year for services and expenses—on top of 3% of festival revenue—without providing justification. They say they have filed six appeals in four years over excessive and unjustified costs.

The lawsuit, which is seeking to recoup millions of dollars from the government, asks for "relief from defendants' ongoing, unlawful, and prejudicial conduct" toward organizers that "threatens the viability of the iconic Burning Man event," reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. Black Rock says BLM expenses went up to $1.4 million in 2012, a 60% year-on-year increase, though attendance only went up 4% year on year. They say the following year, the BLM bill went up to $2.9 million. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that the festival has clashed with the BLM before: In 2015, several officials were reassigned after they were accused of extorting Burning Man organizers with demands for amenities including 24-hour access to ice cream. (More Burning Man stories.)

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