Burning Man Asks Nevada Officials for Permission to Grow to 100,000

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More than 79,000 people regularly attend Burning Man, which takes place over a week in Black Rock Desert. It's the largest Special Recreation Permit the Bureau of Land Management grants. (Photo: Courtesy of Neil Girling)

The San Francisco-based organization that runs Burning Man has asked Nevada officials to let the annual arts festival grow to 100,000 people. That's up from the more than 79,000 people at the event last year.

"The playa is our home, and we want to ensure our ability to continue gathering there together each year," the company stated in a post on its website.

Among other things, Burning Man says it's lobbying for a change in the way visitors are reported. "In the past, BLM and Burning Man have counted staff, volunteers, and public health and safety personnel separately from the rest of the population. For example, in 2017 our allowable cap for participants was 70,000. The actual peak was 69,493. But the total number of people on site including staff, volunteers and public health and safety personnel was 79,379. In future years, the population cap will combine everyone except government personnel and Black Rock City infrastructure providers (think Porta Potties and water trucks)."

Burning Man began in 1986 in the San Francisco Bay Area with a few dozen attendees, growing year over year before moving to the Black Rock Desert in 1990. The event has since grown exponentially as it became popular with coastal Californians, including celebrities from Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

Now Nevada Bureau of Land Management officials are drafting new permit conditions to govern the event for the next decade, starting in 2019. Details of the current proposal before BLM can be viewed here.


The BLM expects to issue a rough draft of new conditions for Burning Man in December 2018, after which it will take public comment. The agency plans to consider a final draft  in February 2019.

Burning Man Could Expand to 100,000

Burning Man Could Expand to 100,000

Reactions to the proposal

According to the Reno Gazette Journal, locals who testified at recent public comment meetings worried about even more traffic and trash, as well as the need to provide more law enforcement personnel.

As for the partygoers, many of whom come from California, reactions are mixed. On Facebook, where the Burning Man group has more than 93,000 members, some complain tickets are already too hard to get. Others say the more, the merrier.

Annette Monteleone, an interior designer from Southern California, commented, "Porta Potties already outnumber art installations."

Victoria Rose Evanoff, a landscape designer in the East Bay, replied to that, "There is always more art than you can see in a week anyway."

Salman Hasan, an environmental specialist in London, commented, "If we can figure out traffic issues then sure, why not? Whether there are 50k, 70k or 100k people shouldn't make a difference to each individual's experience. You will still only meet a very small number of those people."

That said, Hasan added, "At least half the extra tickets should be allocated through DGS though to ensure the contributor to tourist ratio doesn't get more skewed." DGS is short for "Directed Group Sale,"  intended to help established collaborative groups like theme camps get access to tickets for their team members.

Tickets to Burning Man sell for up to $1,200 these days, and the event has sold out every year since 2011.