Forest Service sends team for Rainbows

The U.S. Forest Service has sent a "National Incident Management Team" to manage the Rainbow Family Gathering, scheduled July 1-7 at Bear Camp Flats in the South Warners.

The team was formed in 1997 to manage large group events and consists of an Incident Commander and support staff, natural resource specialists and advisors, and approximately 40 law enforcement officers, including K-9 officers, mounted police officers, and patrol officers from the Forest Service, California Highway Patrol, Modoc County Sheriff's Department and Department of Fish and Game. Reports in other papers have put the number of people on the team at around 90.

The Forest Service insists the Rainbow gathering is required to have a non commercial group-use permit, required for gatherings of 75 or more on National Forest Lands. The Rainbow Family argues that they have a right to gather under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. According to the U.S. Forest Service, as of June 14, no permit has been signed by the any member of the Rainbow Family.

Actually, last year was the only time the Rainbow Family obtained a group-use permit, and that caused some consternation in the group. It's not clear whether anyone will sign the permit for this gathering. The Rainbow Family considers itself a leaderless organization and stated emphatically that no one person speaks or represents the group. The Forest Service has some difficulty accepting that definition.

What is clear is whether they sign the permit or not, the Gathering will still take place this July. While the Forest Service states that organizers and participants of the Gathering are subject to being cited for not obtaining a permit, it also realizes that forcefully removing them from the area is "not practical."

The permit issue weighs heavily on the Forest Service, while the Rainbow Family pretty much feel it's an infringement on their rights and has, for the most part, ignored the permit process for past events. In addition, The Rainbow Family feels it doesn't need the "Bureaucratic blessing" to provide its participants with essential services or protection of the people and the land. They provide for their own security, medical, food, sanitation and cleanup activities.

Reports from past events, including the last one here in 1984, are positive about the clean-up and rehabilitation of the ground when the Rainbow Gathering is over. The pledge the "live lightly" on the land is taken very seriously.

The Forest Service says the Incident Management Team now in place has started working with local communities and agencies to mitigate social, economic and resource impacts during the gathering. In general, the Forest Service paints a fairly dire picture of the gathering, while actual experience tends to reveal few, if any, major problems.

Modoc is fortunate and ahead of the game in that it has hosted the Rainbow Family before and knows about what to expect.

The Incident Team Commander is Tim Lynn. He is assigned to the Washington Office Enforcement and Liason Staff and has over five years experience with Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations. He also served over seven years with the U.S. Secret Service and over three years with the U.S. Navy Seabees.

On July 4, the Family has a traditional silent Circle of Peace, of about 20,000 people, and pray for world peace at the campsite. The circle starts at sunrise and ends around "Rainbow" noon.

Copyright Modoc County Record.