Forest Service already citing Rainbow gatherers

Twin Falls, Idaho Times-News/June 20, 2001
By Jennifer Sandmann

Twin Falls -- The U.S. Forest Service confirmed Tuesday that it already has begun issuing citations to campers setting up for the Rainbow Family gathering on the Boise National Forest. The Rainbow Family of Living Light will hold its 2001 annual gathering between Lowman and Stanley from June 28 to July 7.

Sharon Sweeney of the Forest Service's National Incident Management Team said Monday an advance party of several hundred Rainbows was busy setting up outdoor kitchens, latrines and other camp necessities at the gathering site.

Sweeney confirmed Tuesday that the Forest Service had issued citations to people in the camp area, but she said she did not have details on the number or type of citations issued. She said she hoped to have the information within the next couple of days as the management team gets into gear.

After initial warnings, there will be citations issued to people who continue to camp, chop wood or establish latrines or waste pits in closed stream areas, she said. "There are critical resource concerns," Sweeney said.

Sensitive fish habitat is involved at the gathering area near Mace, Sack and Cache creeks, although a Rainbow volunteer has said the gatherers would stay away from sensitive salmon habitat. Without the required Forest Service permit, the Forest Service contends the Rainbow Family basically is camping illegally.

About 20,000 people are expected at the Rainbow gathering. Gatherers say they plan to leave the forest as they found it, but the Forest Service says it is concerned about the impact such a crowd would have on sensitive riparian areas. E-mail circulating among gatherers and forwarded Tuesday to The Times-News includes reports coming from the camp area of indignation over Forest Service citations and warnings considered by gatherers to be heavy-handed.

Barry "Plunker" Adams, a Vietnam veteran who said he is an organizer of the first Rainbow gathering in 1972, shared news of similar reports from his home in Montana. Rainbow Family gatherers contend they have the right to peaceably assemble on public land without being forced to change the nature of the gathering.

The group isn't an official organization and does not have official membership and therefore no official representative. The Forest Service so far has said two Rainbow permit applications have been incomplete, because the applicants would not sign as official representatives of the Rainbow Family.

Adams said he submitted one of those applications. When he heads to Idaho for the gathering, he said, he plans to represent himself in federal court and ask a judge to review the Forest Service's decision. "The fact is, no one can legally claim that there has been someone designated by the Rainbow Family as a representative," he said.

A third application was submitted to the Forest Service Monday afternoon, said Garrick Beck of Santa Fe, N.M. Beck said he volunteered to handle Rainbow Family gathering communications.

The third applicant signed the application as a volunteer and not as an official Rainbow representative, Beck said.

"It seems that he is stepping up on his own," Beck said. The Forest Service had not issued a decision by Tuesday evening on the third application, Sweeney said.

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