Is 2019 the Last Year For Burning Man? This Epic Desert Party May Be Over For Good

If you’ve ever traveled through Northwest Nevada at summer’s end, then no doubt you’ve encountered a few dusty, uniquely clad people wandering around, looking entirely out of place in modern society. Don’t worry, you’re not witnessing an alien visitation or some kind of cult gathering. Those are just Burning Man attendees (known affectionately as “Burners”) heading back to their regular lives.

The annual party in the desert kicks off on Sunday, August 25 this year, but some people are saying this could be the last hurrah for Burning Man – at least in its current structure. The reason? The federal government has some issues that they’d like to see addressed, and they’re not backing down.

Read on to find out why Burning Man might be done for good in 2019.

Burning Man
Burning Man | DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

What is Burning Man?

According to their official website, Burning Man is not a festival – it’s a community. It’s a temporary city that’s constructed in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada and run on 10 lofty principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy.

Then there are those people who just call it an extended orgy in the desert. It all depends on your perspective.

Burning Man
Burning Man | Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

Regardless of what it’s become, Burning Man began in San Francisco in 1986 when two friends built a wooden man on the beach and set it ablaze to celebrate the summer solstice. The event grew from there, eventually moving into the desert as attendance numbers swelled. Now this 8-day long celebration is revered by many and attended by tens of thousands.

Why is Burning Man facing legal issues?

The event was moved into the middle of nowhere on purpose, so people could be free to fully celebrate the 10 principles without bothering anyone. But now even this location is becoming an issue.

Burning Man
Burning Man | MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently held a hearing that would impart new restrictions on the event. They proposed constructing a physical barrier around the temporary city and hiring additional security guards to scan attendees for prohibited items, including weapons and drugs. But that’s not all.

Concerned with the amount of trash generated, the BLM also recommended installing dumpsters and having the trash hauled away privately instead of relying on nearby communities. Despite the principle of “Leave No Trace,” community residents have lodged complaints in the past about the garbage.

“This town gets trashed,” Melanie McClenahan, a bartender at Bruno’s Country Club in nearby Gerlach told the Wall Street Journal. “This is big money for Burning Man and they should be responsible.”

Burning Man organizers claim it would take more than 1,500 trucks carrying away 10 tons of garbage to accomplish what the BLM is proposing. They’re saying it’s feasible but would drive up costs significantly.

Burning Man
Burning Man | John Horsley/Photoshot/Getty Images

What is the future of Burning Man?

The 2019 festival is still happening at the end of this summer, but the fate of the event in 2020 is yet to be determined. One thing that’s clear? They’re going to need to beef up security beyond just having plastic barriers, or consider moving the whole event somewhere safer.

Burning Man
Burning Man | John Horsley/Photoshot/Getty Images

But the whole point of having the festival in the desert was to get away from society, at least for a little while. That’s what makes it so difficult for event organizers to concede to these demands, which feel way too structured and demanding. “This is about helping to keep you safe,” one BLM ranger explained during a hearing.

The crowd just laughed.