After it moved from San Francisco's Baker Beach, the inaugural Burning Man in Nevada drew some 80 people in 1990. The first 1,000-plus crowd was in 1993, and attendance doubled each of the next three years before reaching 23,000 in 1999. The crowd was capped at 50,000 under a five-year permit that expired in 2010. The new multi-year permit allows a maximum crowd of 70,000, but organizers applied for a cap of 68,000 this year.
The BLM issued a notice of non-compliance to organizers for exceeding the attendance cap of 50,000 at the 2011 festival, which drew crowds of more than 53,000 on two different days. It was the first time Burning Man had been placed on probation since moving to Nevada. The BLM had warned that if organizers were placed on probation two straight years, the agency might suspend or cancel their permit.
"It's important to note that we may not reach the maximum allowable population (this year)," Miller said. "We don't want to exceed the maximum so we are planning accordingly."
Seidlitz praised organizers' overall efforts in meeting terms and conditions of past permits. Organizers have always met stringent cleanup standards, he said, adding that the gathering pumps millions into Nevada's economy.