Developing an Integrated Suite of Tools Print

Real-time event monitoring with GPS-cameras, Trimble mapping & ESRI ArcGIS

This stipulation monitoring project for the Burning Man 2008 features the development of an integrated suite of geospatial tools for real-time monitoring of permit stipulations in this unreal (or is it surreal?) environment.

Special Recreation Permit process (SRP) and documents for Burning Man 



The Burning Man event was first held on the Black Rock Desert in 1990 and has continued since annually. The combination art festival, social event, and experiment in community living starts the Monday before Labor Day and lasts 8 days. Since 1990, the event participation has increased from a few hundred participants to over 50,000 participants in 2010.  Permit fees paid to BLM are 7 digits.  In terms of both the number of users and fees, Burning Man is the largest permitted event on public lands for any US federal agency.  Given the nature of the event activities and the fees involved, it is not surprising that Burning Man commands much public visibility.  It is critical that BLM closely monitor and document compliance with the event permit.

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 Winnemucca BLM received a Special Recreation Permit application from Black Rock City LLC for the annual Burning Man event for the years 2006 through 2010.  Potential impacts of the event were analyzed and BLM issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) with stipulated terms to ensure visitor safety and resource protection.  Stipulation monitoring during and after the event must be performed and those efforts must be documented to demonstrate permit compliance.

Chosen Tools & Their Benefits

Because everything in Black Rock City is temporary, GPS/GIS technology and photo-documentation are key to meeting resource protection goals and managing future events on the desert.  This suite of geospatial tools enables the monitoring team to justify day-to-day decision making.  This suite of tools includes Ricoh GPS-cameras processed with GPS-Photo Link,  Trimble GPS units and ArcGIS. For a detailed description of these tools, see the Technical Note in the 2008 Stipulation Monitoring Report.  Compiled data and maps serve as the record for each year’s event and the basis for management decisions for this and other permitted events.  These methods were not only successful monitoring Burning Man but were for all recreation events in the district.


This project demonstrates the combined power of the GPS-cameras, Trimble GPS devices and ArcGIS to monitor permit stipulations in ‘real time’ at the Burning Man event.   In 2008, the team collected over 1,200 gps-enabled photos and other spatial data.  The chosen tools facilitated the completion of 10 monitoring studies, the results and recommendations of which were compiled in the final report.  This real-time knowledge management is an extremely valuable tool for both short and long-term planning.


After a decade of Burning Man, a heartfelt gratitude for ongoing support to -

  • Dave Cooper, NCA Manager (retired)
  • Mike Bilbo, NM BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner
  • Roger Farschon, NCA Ecologist (retired)
  • Joey Carmosino, Outdoor Recreation Planner

    Contact the BLM directly for stipulation monitoring reports and efforts for 2009-11