1991 Vermont Gathering Report




The 1991 National Rainbow Gathering was administered using an interagency Incident Command System approach. Cooperating agencies included the Green Mountain National Forest; the Addison. Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, Washington, Windham and Windsor County Sheriff's departments; the Vermont Health Department; the Vermont State Police and the US Border Patrol. Other agencies that were involved with the incident on a consulting basis included the Vermont departments of Fish and Wildlife, Human Services and Social Services; and the US Marshall Services.

The Incident Command Team structure consisted of the following:

Incident Commander
Warren DuBois
Mark Twain National Forest

Deputy Incident Commander
Nort Phillips
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Resource Advisor
Rob Iwamoto
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Tom Williams
Superior National Forest

Bruce Flewelling
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Nancy Gardner
Modoc National Forest

Susan Denoncour
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Whitney Lerer
National Forest of Florida

Health and Safety
Bob Burt
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Al Burns et al.
Vermont Dept. of Health

Soil/Water Resources
Nancy Burt
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Law Enforcement
Don D'Ercole
White Mountain Natl. Forest

Jim Coons
Addison County Sheriff Dept

Kathy Miller
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

George Houghton
Massachusetts DES

Tom Jahn
Indiana DNR

Mike Gregg
Indiana DNR

Larry Ridgley
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Pam Nord
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

Tom Menagh
Green Mountain Natl. Forest

The Incident Command System worked well as a management organization for the 1991 Rainbow Family Gathering. It provided highly skilled individuals who performed professionally in their assigned jobs. The ICS allowed for close daily communications and coordination between the agencies involved. ensuring a coherent and solidified strategy for managing the event. Occasionally the organization did not function as efficiently as desired. This was attributed to individuals who lacked previous ICS experience and who were unclear or unaware of their roles/responsibilities. The situation was rectified by clarifying roles and explaining job expectations to the individuals. It became obvious that having team members who are experienced in the ICS is a crucial factor in the organization's successful operation.

During the event, several questions arose concerning pay administration. Because the ICS was used some team members assumed that the special pay regulations that apply to an ICS operation during an emergency fire also applied to the Rainbow event. However. a Rainbow gathering is not classified an emergency and the special pay regulations do not apply. These include rules on hiring casuals, exemption from maximum earning limitations, paying exempt employees as non-exempt based on duties performed and guaranteed 8-hours pay for all employees. In the future, personnel staff should clearly explain the pay regulations which IC team members will be working under to avoid confusion, misunderstandings and hard feelings.



When it became apparent that the Rainbow Family would hold its 1991 annual gathering in the Green Mountain National Forest, Forest staff began to proactively administer the event. From the start it was decided to continue with the philosophy established in the past two years on the Humboldt (1989) and the Superior 1990 national forests, viewing the event as a large social gathering. Preliminary objectives were 1) to provide for the health and safety of all: those attending the gathering, other national forest users and area residents and 2) to minimize, and to the extent possible eliminate any negative environmental, social and political impacts. To achieve these objectives the Forest Service would seek to establish good working relations with the Rainbow Family and with the potentially impacted government and law enforcement agencies in order to manage the gathering in a spirit of cooperation. Law enforcement would assume a support role in achieving the objectives.

In mid-June the IC team began to take form. With the Forest Supervisor they formalized the following specific management objectives:
1. Provide proactive management of the 1991 National Rainbow Gathering.

2. Take action on activities that are deemed inappropriate or illegal on National Forest System lands.

3 All participants in the gathering will be treated equally. Harassment of individuals will not be tolerated.

4. Cooperate with state and county agencies. Provide assistance and information that will help them perform their mission both on and off the gathering site.

5 Maintain adequate contact with local businesses and individuals for information sharing. Manage the event in a way that recognizes our neighbors' concerns and values.

6. Ensure environmental safeguards are in place during the gathering and that the site is returned to an as-near-as-natural condition as is possible following the event.

7. Cost effectiveness will be considered during planning and incorporated in the decision-making process.

On July 5, with the peak gathering activities over, the IC team began to focus on the subsequent mission of site clean-up and rehabilitation and eventually returning management responsibility of the event to the Rochester Ranger District. The following two objectives were added:
8. Identify and map rehabilitation needs.

9. prepare an incident transition plan.

At their final critique session, the IC team felt comfortable that the primary end specific objectives had been met.


Incident Commander Warren DuBois assumed responsibility for the 1991 Rainbow Gathering from Rochester District Ranger Rob Iwamoto on June 10, 1991. At this time a skeletal IC team made up of Green Mountain National Forest GMNF employees worked with DuBois to administer the event. Additional detailed IC team members reported for duty beginning June 21, with the full teen in place on June 25.

Personal, off-duty accommodations varied due to limited availability. Green Mountain NF employees commuted from their permanent residences and/or duty stations, some traveling over 35 miles to the Incident Command Post.

Off-Forest employees detailed to the incident stayed at one of two motels in the Killington area: the Grey Bonnet Inn, 18 miles from the ICP and Mountain View Inn. 22 miles from the ICP. The temporary quarters were adequate, offering comfortable lodging, affordable meals and recreational facilities. A concerted effort was made to keep all information regarding the off-duty where-abouts of the IC team confidential. The long hours and the nature of the work on a Rainbow detail can be exhausting and stressful. It is important that IC team members have adequate undisturbed and hassle-free private time to get needed rest and relaxation between work assignments.

An Incident Command Post (ICP) was established at the Rochester Junior and Senior High School located across the street from the Rochester Ranger District office. This facility was approximately 10 miles south of "back gate" on State Route 100, and 10 miles south and east of "front gate". (See map, page 4). The IC team began occupancy of the ICP on June 24.

Initially three adjacent rooms were rented at the high school, one room dedicated to each operational unit: incident command and general staff. public information and law enforcement. The ICP later expanded to a fourth room to accommodate law enforcement needs for holding and interviewing arrestees. All rooms could be secured from the outside and each was equipped with a separate, dedicated phone line. In addition to the four rented rooms, we had access to the teachers' room which had rest rooms and kitchen facilities. The IC team felt fortunate having the entire operations housed in one central command post. This greatly facilitated team communications and cooperation.

The school year was over on June 17. after which time only a small school staff was present in the building on week days. in general the ICP was isolated from general public activity and insulated from outside disturbances. During the July 4th weekend, however, the school complex also housed participants from a regional rugby tournament. Because the rugby event took place on a weekend when no school staff were available, rugby participants frequented the ICP seeking logistical information, use of public phones and rest rooms. The Rainbow gathering also became a curiosity for some rugby spectators who visited the ICP. With good signing we restricted tournament activity to the public information area of the ICP.

The ICP closed its doors and responsibility for the event passed from the Incident Commander back to the Rochester Ranger District on July 15, 1991.


A communications network at the ICP was established to maximize interagency interfacing. The network included: 1) a radio system consisting of a base unit at the ICP, 32 portable radios assigned to IC team members, law enforcement's officers and other cooperating personnel, and a remote repeater in the field; 2) three dedicated phone lines, one line per operational unit: incident command, public information and law enforcement; 3) computer hook-ups: one DG terminal and one Walk-About terminal; and 4) a Vermont State Police mobile unit located adjacent to the ICP.

We encountered numerous snags in the communications system, all of which were eventually resolved. Specific problems included:
1) Radios - No base unit was available in the national IC cache. One of the detailed LEO's finally secured one from his home unit the week before the event. Numerous repeater sites were field tested before a successful site was found. The repeater was not secured in the field. Questionable tampering was reported on one occasion. Repeater batteries required frequent changing. a task that if left unattended resulted in major radio inadequacies.

2) Phones - Once installed. the phone system was adequate. NYNEX ran the lines and AT&T installed the phones, completing the installation on June 21. There were complications in getting compatible lines and desk units. and problems scheduling work time with the phone companies. Earlier system design and contract work would have alleviated these problems.

3) Computers - In general these were adequate. A printer (preferably laser) located at the ICP would have been desirable. Public affairs people impacted the Ranger District office daily to use their printer components.

4) FAX - No FAX capabilities were available at the ICP. Again. the IC team impacted the District office frequently to use their system. Locating a FAX at the ICP is desirable from a convenience and efficiency standpoint.

In general, the communication problems encountered resulted from the IC team's lack of communications personnel. Future teams would do well to recruit a communications technician to design, set up and field test all network components. This person should begin work as soon as a gathering site and ICP have been selected to ensure that the communications network is ready and working when the IC team arrives. Everyone involved with the incident must recognize the crucial role communication plays and devote the necessary resources to acquire and maintain the needed system.


Immediately after the Rainbow Family reached final consensus on Rob Ford Meadows for their gathering, the Forest Service drafted an operating plan. Between May 30 and June 27 the Forest Service met several times with Rainbow Family members to discuss the operating plan and seek Family acceptance. At each meeting different Rainbow Family members were present, and each time they indicated additional changes they wanted made in the plan. On June 23 a final draft was presented to the Rainbows (Appendix A), at which time they indicated they would seek formal Family consensus at the Main council meeting on July 1. The operating plan was discussed at the July 1 council meeting and the Family then indicated they would reach consensus on the operating plan the next day. On July 2 Family spokesperson Jon-Michel announced that the Family Council had reached consensus on an operating plan that read "We will live in harmony with the land." There were no further attempts to negotiate a mutually acceptable operating plan with the Family.

It is the Forest Service's responsibility to the prepare operational guidelines and standards regarding Rainbow Family gatherings. But the Family's lack of designated leadership and their consensus form of government make it virtually impossible to gain formal acceptance of a plan. In hindsight, the IC team felt they had spent an inordinate amount of time and energy seeking Rainbow approval.


Between June 10 and July 19 members of the lC team and/or District Ranger Iwamoto and his staff visited the gathering site daily. The purposes of the visits were to:
  1. maintain direct communications with the Rainbow Family;
  2. work with Family members to develop an operating plan and later a site rehabilitation plan;
  3. gain first hand knowledge of what was happening on the gathering site;
  4. ascertain what effects the gathering was having on the environment;
  5. provide assistance to gatherers if needed;
  6. deliver messages for posting within the gathering;
  7. maintain a presence of authority within the gathering;
  8. document the gathering on film and video tape; and
  9. guide visiting dignitaries (congressional aides, RO personnel) to the site.

Most site visits were made by the incident commanders, the operations chief or the district ranger. Public affairs officers and the planning chief made frequent visits to get first hand knowledge and do photo documentation. Visits were limited to daylight hours and were made by teams of at least two. All personnel making official site visits were required to be in uniform and were expected to check out of and back into the ICP and maintain radio contact with ICP dispatch. Efforts were made to limit site visits to Forest Service and other public agency personnel involved in administering the event or addressing public health and safety concerns. All other agency employees visiting the site an official duty could do so only with the approval of the incident commander or district ranger.

The official administrative presence maintained on the site was, almost without exception, well received by the Family and its members.


The Green Mountain National Forest and IC team had as an objective to maintain adequate contact with local businesses and individuals and to keep those in local communities informed of gathering developments. These communications would 1) provide facts about current gathering developments to help reduce unfounded rumors; 2) ascertain and deal with public concerns; and 3) facilitate understanding and mutual respect (tolerance) between the local communities and the Rainbow Family. A public affairs plan formed the strategy for maintaining open lines of communications and for building strong relations with the public. (Appendix B).


The Forest and IC team used several approaches to disseminate public information. Prior to the Rainbow Family's final selection of a gathering site, the Forest Service kept state and local agencies informed of the potential for a national Rainbow gathering somewhere in the Green Mountain National Forest. Information was exchanged primarily through informal, routine work contacts between individual Forest Service and state employees. Until a definitive site was chosen there were no formal discussions or plans made.

On June 5, 1991 Forest Supervisor Terry Hoffman formally notified Vermont Governor Richard Snelling of the event. The Governor responded indignantly, stating this was the first he had been informed of the gathering, an event he perceived as having great potential for controversy, confrontation and crisis. In retrospect, the CMNF staff realizes the wisdom of establishing formal and direct communications regarding a potential gathering with the governor's office as early as possible given the potential impacts on state and local agencies and area communities.

Immediately following final site selection. Rochester District Ranger Rob Iwamoto and his staff established informal daily contact with local citizens and area businesses. These direct, one-to-one contacts allowed for exchange of current information, the airing of concerns and the resolution of actual or perceived problems. They were crucial to maintaining a sense of control and calm in the local communities. One-to-one contacts continued throughout the gathering with the IC public information unit handling the majority of contacts. The District Ranger resumed responsibility for post-gathering contacts on July 13.

On June 9, Ranger Iwamoto mailed a formal letter and fact sheet to local businesses; adjacent landowners; Vermont and US congressional delegates, representatives of potentially affected federal, state and local agencies; community leaders and others interested in national forest management. The letter described a brief chronology of events to date, a cursory profile of the Rainbow Family and Forest Service management objectives for the event. The fact sheet described the Rainbow Family and the gathering in more depth. (Documents in Appendix C). A general news release was sent to the local media at the same time (Appendix D).

On June 10 and 12 the Forest Service and local law enforcement agencies participated in two Rainbow Family sponsored public information meetings. The Family presented an overview of the gathering and answered questions concerning sanitation, food preparation, environmental impacts, clean-up, event funding and drug and alcohol use. The Forest Service also responded to these concerns. The first meeting was attended by approximately 15 Rainbow Family members, 50 local citizens, 3 Forest Service employees, 2 Addison County deputy sheriffs, 2 Vermont State policemen and one newspaper reporter. Attendance at the second meeting was lower with fewer Rainbow Family members as well as local citizens.

The IC team advocates the use of public meetings early in the process to establish mutual understanding/respect and to remove some of the mystery about the Family and their activities. The team felt that this should continue to be Family initiated. But if they fail to do so the Forest Service should sponsor the meeting. The team also felt, in hindsight, that the Forest Service should take a stronger and more vocal role at these meetings to define roles/responsibilities and to ensure the public receives an accurate and realistic portrayal of the events that are about to unfold in their communities.


The public information center at the ICP was the focal point for information dissemination. The center was staffed with three journeyman-level public affairs officers seven days a week, between 7 am and 8 pm during the gathering. The PAO's kept current displays of gathering attendance, ongoing Rainbow events, water monitoring results and a media exhibit with a cumulative record of printed press coverage. The center's existence and phone number was "advertised" widely and people were encouraged to visit. It was a busy, and at times hectic place, frequented by local citizens, gathering visitors, Rainbow Family members, media representatives and other IC team members.

A community newsletter was prepared every other day and distributed at key contact points (post offices, local businesses, country stores. mini-marts. and cafes) in Rochester, Hancock and Granville. The newsletters (Appendix E) reported current information on gathering attendance and activities, law enforcement matters and resource monitoring updates. The newsletters were popular with local citizens and gathering attendees alike. They proved to be an effective rumor control tool.

Daily issue briefs were prepared and mailed internally to designated contacts at the GMNF Supervisor's Office, the R9 Regional Office, the Forest Service Washington Office and Governor Snelling's office. These briefs were essential to keep key government officials abreast of the gathering's current status and to advise them of current and emerging issues and corresponding IC strategies.

Following a recommendation in the Superior NF 1990 Rainbow Report the GMNF produced a "Welcome Flyer" which was distributed to gathering attendees (Appendix Fl. The purpose of the flyer was to explain agency and Rainbow Family responsibilities, lay out Forest Service expectations of gathering attendees and to offer helpful hints to ensure visitors had a safe, healthy and enjoyable stay in the GMNF The Rainbow Family members appreciated the information as well as the Forest Service gesture in preparing the flyer.

The only other literature systematically distributed to the Rainbow Family were a water monitoring update that indicated unsafe fecal coliform levels in area rivers and streams and a poster which described historic resources in the area and asked for cooperation in protecting the resources. Again, Rainbows appreciated the transfer of information and in most cases heeded the advice given.


The one portion of the Public Affairs Plan that was not successfully addressed was that of keeping the local internal public (GMNF employees) regularly informed of the gathering. Early in the process one-pagers were issued to all employees. However, later on, external public relations efforts intensified and took precedence. While we continued to disseminate regular situation reports to RO and WO staff and to a few GMNF employees who "needed" to know in order to answer public inquiries, others received sporadic information via the grapevine or through personal site visits. A simple daily update similar to the community newsletter, to all Forest employees would have given them enough knowledge to answer routine questions which could help immensely in public relations and rumor control efforts.

Final Report - Continued

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