(Updates at the end, as of June 29th, 2015.)
This is no joke. If Burning Man doesn’t get its permit, the event doesn’t happen. Given that we’re two months away from it and thus there is a 0% chance it could be relocated, the BLM’s demands sound a lot like extortion to me.
The federal Bureau of Land Managementis attempting to impose somewhere around a million dollars extra cost for Burning Man’s annual permit (it’s held on federal land, so the BLM permit is required) this year, and they have informed the Burning Man organization that if BM won’t pay, then the bureaucrats at the BLM are going to deny us a permit to use the playa this year.
The last few years have seen the BLM dramatically increasing the fees it demands from Burning Man, without providing substantially more services or staffing the event with extra people. So where is the money going? Why do they need so much? This is public land, supposedly there for the public to use, and while it’s reasonable for the BMORG to pay for the costs the BLM incurs, how is it possible that their costs have increased so much while their presence on the playa is relatively unchanged?
Some of their demands, which will take between $1m and $1.2m dollars to satisfy for the week, include:
· Flushable toilets and sinks.
· On-demand running hot water.
· Three hot meals a day, with things like burgers, chicken fingers, quesadillas, and more available between meals.
· 24 hour service bar that must include, among other things, Chobani Greek Yogurt, protein bars, brownies, Hot Pockets, personal pizzas, burritos, noodle cups, cookies, jerky, Skittles, licorice, Payday bars, Snickers bars, M&Ms.
· 24 hour standalone freezer for ice cream that must be stocked with: Drumsticks, Choco Tacos, Individual served ice cream – assorted flavors, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches
· A salad bar for both lunches and dinners that contains a minimum of five salad toppings, mixed greens with at least three types of leafy vegetables, three types of salad dressings, and three ‘salad condiments.’
· Meal suggestions include things like prime rib, t-bone steaks, roasted pork tenderloin, and so on.
Basically, what the BLM is asking for is the rock star treatment, so that their staff and these VIPs can live far better than anyone else at Burning Man does. Here, in fact, is the most infamous rider (the contract that stipulates the requirements that a band has when performing at a particular venue) of all time, for the Van Halen tour in 1982 that contained a provision specifying no brown M&Ms. Their rider has far less luxurious food requirements than the BLM’s. Van Halen, a famously indulgent rock band has requirements easier to fulfill than the BLM does. Seems pretty screwed up doesn’t it?
This is a government agency here to serve us by stewarding public land and instead of doing that they appear to be essentially extorting Burning Man for a million bucks for outright luxuries (in the context of Burning Man) that they’ve never needed previously out there. Why the change?
I’m told it’s because Dan Love, the agent in charge of the Winnemucca office of the BLM (where their Burning Man activities are based), has gotten greedy and is basically taking while the taking’s good, because he knows that Burning Man has to have the permit and that it’s far too late to even think about holding it elsewhere this year. That borders on corruption in my eyes. Our government is here to serve us, not the other way around. (Note, btw, that Dan is marked down as one of the people staying in the Blue Pit, below, in the "Love/Stover Trailer". Damn Dan, that looks pretty nice.)
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada has already registered his displeasure with the BLM’s stance in an official letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, to whom the BLM ultimately reports.
Let’s make our voices heard. This is very much an active issue at the moment, so let’s make those higher up the food chain than Dan Love hear that the citizens whose interests they are supposed to be serving via managing public lands are outraged at this blatant money grab from a mid-level bureaucrat.
First, sign the change.org petition asking Sally Jewell to direct the BLM to remove its outlandish requirements.
Second, get in touch with one or both of the following two people:
Neil Kornze, Director of the Bureau of Land Management
BLM Washington Office
1849 C Street NW
Rm. 5665 Washington DC 20240
Sally Jewell, Department of the Interior (Neil Kornze’s boss)
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240
Phone: (202) 208-3100
@secretaryjewell on twitter
Let’s make ourselves heard. Write, email, tweet, call. Public officials are vulnerable to pressure, and the squeaky wheel definitely gets the grease in government.
I believe that using your own words is better than copying and pasting a form letter, but it all helps (as long as it’s polite!), so if you don’t have the time to write something yourself but want to let the two people above know what you think of the BLM’s crazy demands, use the letter below.
Dear Secretary Jewell / Director Kornze,
I’m writing to you in regards to the matter of the Bureau of Land Management’s recent unprecedented request for luxury amenities during the Burning Man event, for a luxury compound called the Blue Pit, totaling an estimated $1-$1.2 million.
Of course, I understand that it’s reasonable for Burning Man to pay for the BLM’s oversight during the event, but what makes little sense to me is why the fees have been rocketing up the last few years despite attendance not being substantially bigger or there being a substantially different level of BLM staffing during the event.
As a reminder, the fees have been roughly as follows:
2012: $1.4 million
2013: $2.9 million
2014: $4 million
2015: $5-$5.2 million
That’s quite the increase, and what is a little galling is that the increase for 2015 is driven by demands for amenities like flushable toilets, 24 hour ice cream availability, Snickers, M&Ms, salad bars, and Chobani Greek yogurt. What they’re claiming they need is worthy of what a major rock band might request, and is far beyond what anyone else at Burning Man has access to, including billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. This is an event that’s about self-reliance – we even bring our own water – and even employees of Burning Man who might spend a month out there live simply by the standards of the BLM’s request.
As Senator Harry Reid recently said, “While I agree that the BLM should take its permitting duties seriously and work with Burning Man to both guarantee the safety of its participants and the protection of the environment, providing outlandishly unnecessary facilities for the BLM and its guests should be beyond the scope of the permitting requirements.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to reading that the BLM’s demands for Burning Man 2015’s permit are scaled back to something more reasonable.
<your city and state>
Update as of July 29th, 2015:
The BLM's deputy director released this today:
"I am concerned about the reported costs associated with supporting the Burning Man festival. I have directed that BLM staff take a fresh look at the initial proposals for food and facilities at the event. Our priority is to provide for participant and employee health and safety, sanitation, and environmental compliance at this unique event that is attended by up to 80,000 people in a remote part of the Nevada Desert. I have full confidence in BLM staff and their ability to develop a plan that is cost efficient and ensures public health and safety."
That's good news, but it's hardly victory - they could review the requests and then continue to stick to their guns. We need to keep the pressure on! Keep writing, emailing, and signing the change.org petition.
6/27/2015 06:49:42 am
We're just talking about less than a $20 ticket price increase to cover this. I don't see what the big deal is. BLM officials don't ask to come to BM, and they shouldn't have to live in the gutter to take care of business.
They weren't living in a gutter before, and nobody reports that BLM employees generally had any problem with previous accommodations that $4 million from BMan paid for. This reportedly is coming from one guy - Dan Love - who knows he has us under his thumb. Why should we pay $20 more each so he can have 24 hour ice cream and flushable toilets?
6/27/2015 07:29:04 am
Because the vast majority of Burners have access to these things when they are working. Even soldiers in Iraq and prisoners have access to such things. Law enforcement in general on playa is a seriously fucked up situation, but no sanctimonious bullshit about us being more enlightened than other festivals changes that fact that working at a festival is working at a festival, no matter how many shirt cockers there are.
6/28/2015 02:40:59 am
Let them use their $3.5 million dollar complex built in Gerlach in 2011. If it's already out of date, then I seriously think they should reconsider their building contractors and start spending the tax payers money more effectively. And Choco Taco's don't count.
6/27/2015 09:05:13 am
You're obviously not a Burner, otherwise you wouldn't be an advocate such misappropriation of funds.
6/27/2015 10:00:50 am
It seems that not everyone understand this particular brand of sarcasm :)
Ok, Sizo volunteers to clean BLM toilets.
6/29/2015 12:29:47 am
The increase they are talking about is for about 10-12 higher level BLM people. The vast majority of agents will be stay right where they have for years. This is just about having a cushy camp the higher ups can stay in. Occasionally travel to the playa in air conditioned vehicles to see the sights. Most of their management will be via radios. This has nothing what so ever to do with safety. The agents on the ground will still be staying in Gelach. This is about the BLM and one of their upper Agents that has a stick up his ass over Burning Man. This and the new Nevada 9% festival tax. I will probably never attend again. I can not afford it now and now that I am on a fixed income it is getting out of reach
6/27/2015 07:47:07 am
If someone wants those amenities, they should invest into a fancy upgraded trailer like everyone else who wants those extras does.
6/27/2015 07:52:34 am
BLM has become such a worthless agency!! Greedy,because of our love for the festival!! Insincere and so dishonest when driving thru the playa!!
6/27/2015 08:53:10 am
I'd like to hear the BLM's side of the story before I sign any petition. On the surface their demands seem unreasonable but maybe there are good logistical reasons for providing them with more services. And so what if their luxuries are above and beyond what festival goers have? That's not the point. They are Land Management. They're not there to party, they're there to... well, manage!
6/28/2015 05:27:01 am
Well... if they aren't here to party and are here to manage, then the 24 hour ice cream at least should be able to be left behind, right? Some things here just don't seem sensible. I've never needed ice cream to do my job.
I agree it is not about comparing them to burner facilities. But less than 90 days notice of an additional $1M fee is ridiculous in and of itself.
6/29/2015 12:34:38 am
There is a term for it. "Black Mail " They know the tickets have been sold so now they think they can get the Org to bend over so they can stick it to them. If this was something that they would bring up at least one year in advance I would not be nearly as pissed. still pissed but at least there would be time to negotiate and get all the facts out in the open.
6/27/2015 09:29:48 am
Notice also that the 150 BLM employees that are actually working will continue to live in much more reasonable lodgings. With the fees already as high as they are, if they really needed better facilities, they should provide them out of the millions Burning Man was already paying them.
6/27/2015 09:43:54 am
That would cut into Burning Man's profits. Hence the hissy fit and call for a petition.
6/27/2015 09:48:47 am
That petition was started by me. I'm not affiliated with Burning Man except as someone who goes every year.
6/27/2015 04:13:13 pm
Ridiculous! The BLM is already paid for by our taxes, AND paid for by our permitting fee. Now to do their jobs they want us to pay more to give them luxuries? It's supposedly their job, not their vacation to the land of candy and ice cream.
6/27/2015 10:05:15 pm
Here's the letter I just sent, in case anyone wants to borrow any of it.
6/28/2015 01:14:52 am
The less words you can say that in the more likely they are to actually read it.
6/28/2015 02:53:46 am
Frankly - This is EXACTLY the way I felt when the BMORG started changing the rules, seemingly to produce more revenue, rather than produce more services. From things I read recently, the Radical SELF-Reliance has disappeared behind the rows of 'motel' yurts, octogons, and private jets from SF airport. It has become more of a business to make a profit, than freedom FROM that. It looks like the BLM is seeing it and acting accordingly. IT AIN'T PERSONAL -- IT IS JUST BUSINESS.
6/28/2015 03:19:51 am
Is this any surprise? Every gathering like this of any sorts always starts out with original vibes over the years it grows and more and more people and circles and groups come in. The vibe of the whole event has to become generalized for the greater group. Much like a small mom and pop business that turns into corporation. Eventually people cant relate to it genuinely. It just becomes a stereotype and in this case a business. It happens EVERY single time. There is no surprise or shock here. There isnt even disappointment because I had no expectations of anything else happening.
6/28/2015 03:47:24 am
The vibe of the whole event has to become generalized for the greater group. Much like a small mom and pop business that turns into corporation. Eventually people cant relate to it genuinely. It just becomes a stereotype and in this case a business. It happens EVERY single time. There is no surprise or shock here. There isnt even disappointment because I had no expectations of anything else happening.
6/28/2015 01:30:38 pm
There was vending in BRC well into the 90's. There have been coffee and ice sales since that time. I'm not sure what nostalgic Burning Man of old you are referring to but it isn't one based in reality.
6/28/2015 04:06:51 am
Your right, point still stands however. Its unfortunate but it is what it is. I will be saving my money and not attending.
6/28/2015 04:37:47 am
Hope to begin checking out some of the Regionals, as they have not been corrupted.
6/29/2015 12:39:41 am
I have attended a regional for a few years and will continue. Burning Man is now priced out of my zone. I go to the E11 and for this year and probably for a few to come I can make the round trip on one tank of fuel. Much less than BM.
6/28/2015 05:31:51 am
The funny thing is that the "no brown M&M's" Van Halen contract referred to was about ensuring safety. They had a lot of specifications about the stage and other safety requirements in the contract, but they'd go places and find out some people had built everything to contract and other's hadn't, which meant they spent tons of time trying to ensure everything was built to contract. They added the no brown M&M's clause so they could see... at a glance... if the venue was reading and following the contract. If there weren't brown M&M's they didn't have to look as much at the way things were constructed. If there were brown M&Ms then they had to look at every detail themselves to ensure everyone's safety.
This is not coming from patrol level Rangers, they are fine heading back into Bruno's for ice cream and laundry.
6/28/2015 07:54:25 am
6/29/2015 12:45:32 am
Having read some about Dan Love the past few days makes one wonder about just how bad things are in the BLM.
6/28/2015 07:56:52 am
You got the Van Halen story wrong. Their set was heavier than most stages could handle, and they needed specific non-regular anchors for it. They knew if they saw blue m&m's, the house didn't read the rider and the band would be performing on a dangerous stage.
6/28/2015 07:59:48 am
Unsure what I got wrong! All I said was that it is probably the most infamous rider for a concert of all time and that they didn't want brown M&Ms. I think both are true!
6/28/2015 10:49:38 am
Just cancel the event this year....don't give BLM anything...pack up and go home. Refund the tickets and start over next year. In other words: last minute their last minute.
We all have spent a few million dollars on the event. It is not just the ticket refund.
6/29/2015 02:35:25 am
Brooks - I was thinking the same thing, but hadn't figured out how to word it properly.
6/29/2015 09:46:32 am
For the record, I am against the BLM's last-minute extortive demands. However, here's a radical idea for thought: Why not connect the BLM VIPs with one of the (surviving) concierge camps? Twelve VIPs at $10k pp and they receive fantastic amenities and it costs the event just $120k.
6/29/2015 10:02:08 am
I'm fairly sure none of the plug n' play camps are up to the requirements of the BLM. Caravansicle wasn't, based on what I've read about it, for instance. Also, for whatever reason (I can guess a few), the BLM's requested compound is about 2 miles down the road from the playa - ie not even in Black Rock City.
6/30/2015 09:59:27 pm
If you want to save the event, ask BLM to sack the thug known as SAIC Dan Love. Its that simple.
Comments are closed.
I'm Dr. Yes. I run this site, lead a theme camp called Friendgasm, and make Burning Man videos. Just say yes, folks, and help keep Burning Man weird!