Final BLM cost recovery for 2016 Burning Man event totals $2.1 million
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be sending organizers of last year’s Burning Man event a check for $33,831– refunding the difference between what they estimated costs would be for operations associated with the 2016 event and what it actually did cost the agency.
Each year, the BLM estimates the agency’s costs for protecting participants, the general public, and the natural and cultural resources of the Black Rock Desert during the annual Burning Man event. Black Rock City, LLC (BRC), the organization that runs Burning Man, then pays BLM the estimated amount ahead of time. In 2016, BRC paid BLM $2,199,959 to cover the costs of staffing the weeklong arts and lifestyle festival, which also has a set-up, breakdown, and cleanup schedule lasting more than two months. When all stages of the 2016 event were complete, including post-event inspection, the BLM had spent $2,166,127.41 on the event, leaving BRC with a refund of $33,831.59.
“This year’s event was conducted safely and successfully thanks to a collaborative partnership between BLM and BRC,” said acting Black Rock Field Manager Mark Hall. “Appropriate staffing levels were key to that success, and staffing depends on sufficient cost recovery.”
Since the Burning Man event takes place on public land managed by the BLM, the agency issues a special recreation permit to BRC that allows the organization exclusive use of part of the Black Rock desert for a specific time period. Federal law governing special recreation permits requires the BLM to recover all costs of planning and executing the permit from the permittee, so that taxpayer dollars do not subsidize activities benefitting only event organizers and participants. Other events taking place on public land in Nevada authorized by special recreation permits include OHV races such as the Mint 400 and the Vegas to Reno Race.
A year-over-year comparison shows that in 2015, BRC paid BLM $2,944,827 in advance of the event, which cost the BLM $2,793,722.27 to administer, resulting in a refund of $151,104.73. The 2016 estimate was therefore $744,868 less than the previous year’s, and the BLM spent $627,594.86 less than in 2015. These differences resulted in part from contracting changes, where BRC incurred certain BLM costs via statements of work instead of cost recovery, and in part from reductions in staffing and length of assignment on site.
The cancelation of the 2020 event “severely affected operating revenue,” according to the Great Reno Balloon Race.