Feds want $1M for staff compound at Burning Man

Feds want $1M for staff compound at Burning Man
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Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials wants Burning Man organizers to spend $1 million on a VIP compound at this year’s festival. 

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Friday that federal officials have asked the festival to set up the compound — called the “Blue Pit” — complete with washers and dryers, hot water, air conditioning and couches for some of the 150 staffers who work the event each year. 

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Burning Man organizers are pushing back. A spokesman told the Gazette-Journal that “we’re getting close to the event, but we feel that there are more common-sense and cost-effective solutions” to providing accommodations for staffers.  

The request would add $1 million to the cost of hosting the festival, bringing total permitting fees to around $5 million. Current permits allow the festival, which will run from late August to early September, to host up to 70,000 visitors every year. Organizers have not received permits for this year's festival, though that's expected to happen in August.

In a Friday letter to Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellOvernight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone Blind focus on ‘energy dominance’ may cripple Endangered Species Act MORE, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSeven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Senate buzzsaw awaits 2020 progressive proposals Sanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan MORE (D-Nev.) called the request “unprecedented and extravagant."

“Providing outlandishly unnecessary facilities for the BLM and its guests should be beyond the scope of the permitting requirements,” he said. “Part of Burning Man’s philosophy is self-reliance and living with the elements is part of the experience. Flush toilets and laundry facilities can be found about ten miles away in Gerlach, Nevada, if BLM’s employees need such amenities.”

BLM staff currently stay about 20 minutes from the festival, which is held annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Many of those who would use the compound would be state and federal officials focused on security and safety at the event. 

BLM officials and Burning Man organizers have tussled over the event for the past few months, even visiting Washington to discuss permitting and Burning Man’s hope to grow into a 100,000-person event.

Burning Man officials contacted Rep. Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiRevitalize our defense industrial base with mine permitting reform To reduce China's leverage, rebuild America's minerals supply chain GOP staves off immigration revolt — for now MORE’s (R-Nev.) office about the BLM’s compound request. An Amodei spokesman told the Gazette-Journal that “his first impression was, this is awful.” 

This story was updated at 5:10 p.m.