Burning Man Gets Attendance Cap Recommendation From The Bureau Of Land And Management

David McNewGetty Images

Burning Man has grown larger and larger in recent years, and some say this festival boom is getting out of hand. The annual event — which began in 1966 in San Francisco and has since moved to Northern Nevada, about 100 miles north-northeast of Reno — attracts individuals interested in taking part in alternative culture.

Eager participants spend a week living in a city, which is temporarily built in the Black Rock Desert and which is specifically erected for Burning Man. While promoting the ideals of civic responsibility, as the official Burning Man organization points out, the event’s growth — which is trending today on Bing — has ironically had a negative impact on the local community as well as the environment.

When Burning Man organizers recently proposed plans for raising attendance from 80,000 to 100,000, the United States Bureau of Land and Management (BLM) responded. In their statement, officials recommend the organizers keep the population cap at 80,000 in order to retain their Special Recreation Permit for the next decade.

BLM Spokesperson Rudy Evansen said via a Reno Gazette-Journal story on Friday that “the city of Reno, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, could not support the growth particularly because there are other events going on during Labor Day.”

The BLM, however, did not insist on other proposed methods of lowering the event’s environmental impact — like providing dumpsters at the event — although the agency wants to continue working with organizers in addressing many of the ongoing environmental concerns surrounding the counterculture experience.

By way of background, Burning Man has received criticism over the years for its huge environmental impact that leaves behind a large carbon footprint due to the amount of attendees traveling to the event. In 2007, when the theme of the event was “Green Man,” a 99-foot oil derrick was set on fire in a performance piece called “Crude Awakening,” per Wired. While the piece was supposed to criticize humanity’s reliance on oil, the performance burned hundreds of gallons of jet fuel and propane.

Burning Man festival 2000 includes the burning of a 52-foot wooden man
art and "radical self-expression". Featured image credit: David McNewGetty Images
Burning Man attendees pass by the remains of a 52-foot tall wooden man
Featured image credit: David McNewGetty Images

Today, one of the 10 principles of Burning Man is to “Leave No Trace.” This is due to the sheer size of the festival for which a growing amount of trash and waste is left at the site each year.

Organizers have spent time looking for and implementing solutions to these environmental problems, but at the moment, the BLM is only asking those Burning Man organizers to keep the popular annual event from growing any larger. Reducing the population seems to be the best way to mitigate the festival’s negative impact on the environment.