Burning Man Sues U.S. Government for Millions in Fees

Published on January 1, 2020

Organizers from the Burning Man music festival are suing the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) claiming that the government has overcharged them in fees over the past 7 years. 

Black Rock City LLC, the company that organizes the notorious event in the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada, filed a lawsuit on December 13 in the U.S. District Court in Washington state. 

The lawsuit seeks “relief from defendants’ ongoing, unlawful and prejudicial conduct towards (Black Rock City LLC) that threatens the viability of the iconic Burning Man event.”

According to the lawsuit, Black Rock City has filed six appeals since 2015 trying to change the unjustified fees. Spokesman Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley told The Hill the appeals were “denied by the Interior Board of Land Appeals,” and that the case was a last “attempt to break the cycle.” 

The lawsuit also states that Burning Man has paid $18 million in fees from 2015 to 2018, and most recently paid $2.9 million in 2019. The event, which draws more than 70,000 people annually, saw cost recovery charges increase by 291%, even though the event population only increased by 39%, says a Black Rock City attorney.  

Burning Man spokesman told The Hill in an email that the event has been seeking relief from the costs for nearly four years, but was denied by the Interior Board of Land Appeals. 

A spokesperson for the BLM has issued a statement saying the commercial use fees come with the Special Recreation Permit, and it is done “to ensure public safety and environmental compliance.” 

Burning Man, which runs as a non-profit, has been required to reimburse the BLM for providing law enforcement at the event in recent years. The BLM statement continues by stating, “As set by regulation, this fee equals three percent of the adjusted gross income derived from the authorized use, plus any applicable assigned site fee and/or exclusive use fee, as well as cost recovery including application fees.

Sarah Kocur is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Las Vegas, she is a writer, radio host, and music enthusiast. She also writes for EDM.com

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