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BLM request for VIP compound may raise Burning Man permit costs

Laws and procedures exist regarding government property for many reasons. In some cases, the property in question is a wilderness area that needs to be protected from environmental damage. In other instances, laws are there to keep the public safe. There are many natural areas surrounding Las Vegas and across the state of Nevada that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors. However, these areas need to be respected and protected so future generations can enjoy them as well. Understanding that state and federal laws are in place for a reason, there are still numerous opportunities for disputes between businesses and government entities.

The annual Burning Man celebration is known around the world as a haven of artistic freedom and expression. Celebrated every September in Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert, the extreme popularity of the event means that official permits are needed to protect attendees and the playa’s environment. Burning Man officials receive the required special recreation permit each year from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

This year, the BLM is reportedly asking Burning Man organizers to supply VIP accommodations, including flushing toilets and showers, for government officials who attend the event. It has been stated that the officials are necessary to ensure safety for the event’s attendees. The BLM permit for the event cost Burning Man organizers $858,000 in 2011 and had risen to more than $4 million last year. It is estimated that the added BLM official compound would bring the permit’s cost closer to $5 million.

Burning Man officials are questioning the cost of the permit, stating that while the event’s population has risen 40 percent since the event came to Nevada in 1990, the permit’s cost increased by 244 percent. It is yet unclear how these changes will affect what has become a beloved tradition in an equally renowned location, or if it will give rise to commercial litigation. This case may illustrate how a reasonable balance is needed in governing vulnerable environments with allowing the public a way to enjoy them.

Source: USA Today, “Burning Man meets with U.S. agency over permit dispute,” Jenny Kane, July 9, 2015

John P. Aldrich
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