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Burning Man Organizers Push Back Against BLM Request For Cushier Digs For Gov't Officials

RENO (CBS/AP) -- Burning Man festival organizers are pushing back after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management requested upgraded accommodations for its officials at this year's event in the Nevada desert.

The federal agency asked for flush toilets, washers and dryers, hot water, air conditioning, vanity mirrors, refrigerators and couches at its on-site camp, called the Blue Pit, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Friday. The toilets are also to be cleaned daily by Burning Man staff.

Festival leaders have refused the request, saying those amenities alone would cost $1 million and hike its permit fees to about $5 million. Burning Man holds the largest special-recreation permit in the country, but its cost has steadily increased in recent years. In 2011, the permit fees were $858,000.

"We want to work this out. We're getting close to the event, but we feel that there are more common-sense and cost-effective solutions," Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said.

But the Bureau of Land Management said state and federal officials will use the accommodations and that they're needed for security. Staff was added after a fatal crash last year, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"It's safe to say that if you were working 14 to 16 hours a day in white-out conditions on the hot playa, you don't want them to be unrested. Safety, security and health are paramount. That, I will not forgo," said Gene Seidlitz, the bureau's Winnemucca District Manager.

It's a preliminary proposal and a compromise is possible. But Seidlitz said Burning Man leaders hadn't yet outlined their issues.

After the Reno Gazette-Journal's report, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada weighed in with a letter to Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell. He called the requested accommodations unprecedented, extravagant and "outlandishly unnecessary."

The event has been held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for 23 years, which Reid said was a cultural benefit that also contributes $35 million to the local economy each year.

"Part of Burning Man's philosophy is self-reliance and living with the elements is part of the experience. Flush toilets and laundry facilities can be found about ten miles away in Gerlach, Nevada, if BLM's employees need such amenities," Reid said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei's office is also looking into the matter.

The festival, scheduled for Aug. 30 to Sept. 7, can accommodate 70,000 people. Permits are typically issued weeks before.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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