United States    Forest      Allegheny National     P.O. Box 847
Department of    Service     Forest                 222 Liberty Street
Agriculture                                         Warren, PA 16365
                                                    (814) 723-5150
                                                    FAX (814) 726-1465

                                           File Code: 6200
                                           Date; April 11, 2000

Mr. Barry Adams                        CERTIFIED MAIL -
Box 8674                               RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED 
Missoula, MT 59807

Dear Mr. Adams

Our Washington, D.C. office notified us that you are requesting under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain a copy of the Allegheny National Forest's "Resource Impact Report" completed as a result of the Rainbow Family's visit to the Allegheny during the summer of 1999.

Attached are copies of the one-page 1999 National Rainbow Event Resource Summary, the Final Impact Summary of the National Rainbow Family Gathering, and a map showing water quality monitoring sites.

The last page of the Final Impact Summary involves law enforcement activities. Our Regional office in Milwaukee, not local officials here, supervises all law enforcement activities on the Allegheny National Forest We consulted with the regional law enforcement regarding this page of information. They advised us to release this page but to redact (withhold) the name of the law enforcement officer who wrote it in deference to Privacy Act considerations to which the law enforcement officer is entitled. Accordingly, no name appears at the end of the one-page law enforcement summary on your copy.

FOIA procedures specify that personnel in our Regional Office in Milwaukee officially respond to requesters regarding documents or portions of documents that are redacted (withheld). We chose to respond directly to you because we have consulted with the appropriate personnel in our Regional Office, they suggested a relatively minor redaction and in order to provide you with the timeliest response possible. If you wish us to pursue this additional step, p1ease advise us and we will be happy to do so.


FOIA Officer


Caring for the Land and Serving People
Printed on Recycled Paper




Prepared By (signed) Steven S. Burd Date 03-03-00

Approved By (signed) Leon F Blashock Date 3/3/00


I. Introduction and Summary ................. Leon Blashock

II. Cleanup and Site Restoration ........... Bill Moriarity

III. Resource Assessments

a. Soils .......................................... Bill Moriarity
b. Heritage .................................... Jack McLaughiin
c. Wildlife .................................... Scott Reitz
d. Water ........................................ Brent Pence
e. Recreation ................................. Brenda Adams-Weyant
f. Roads ......................................... Rick Hiemenz
g. Law Enforcement ....................... Steven Burd


1999 National Rainbow Event Resource Summary
USDA, Forest Service, Region 9
Allegheny National Forest

Introduction: The 1999 National Rainbow gathering occurred on lands administered by the Allegheny National Forest, Marienville Ranger District. The event occurred from early June, 1999 through September 1999 when clean-up operations were completed.

The site chosen for the gathering was just south of the Bear Creek Campground near the community of Ridgway, Pennsylvania. This site was very remote with limited interior vehicular access opportunities. The vegetation is almost entirely tree-covered with limited interior openings. Because of the extreme remoteness, steep terrain, and limited openings, this site was not recommended as desirable for a gathering of this magnitude.

A team of Forest Service Resource Specialists was assembled, charged with the task of doing a pre/post event assessment of resource impacts both negative and positive. These assessments were shared openly and frequently with Rainbow Family members in the hope that long term negative impacts of the gathering would be minimized or avoided. Specialists in Soils, Heritage, Water Quality, Recreation, Engineering, and Wildlife made an initial and post-event assessment of the resources. The resource writeups are included in this document and form the basis for the following summary.

Summary: After reviewing the pre/post event evaluations by the team of resource specialists assigned to this event. I have concluded that there will be minimal long-term negative resource impacts to the Bear Creek site. One Heritage site was damaged during the event. All other resource impacts have been adequately addressed, mitigated or rehabilitated.

The post-event Rainbow Family contingent did a very good job of cleanup and site reclamation. As time passes, it will be increasingly difficult to determine that a gathering of this magnitude ever occurred in the Bear Creek area. The Forest Service District Ranger and Resource Assessment team experienced a high degree of cooperation with the family on any matter where natural resource issues were of concern. I believe this is largely due to the cooperative spirit that was established with family members at the outset of the gathering and carried that the event by mutual encounters by Forest Service and Rainbow family members

District Ranger


These activities consisted of searching out and filling in all slit latrines; removal of all litter and man made facilities from the Bear Creek Valley and along Forest Service roads numbered 135, 136, 393 (bus village), and 161, and Bear Creek Recreation Area; removal of abandoned vehicles; restoration of wildlife food plots; restoration of areas that needed waterbars and seeding.

The energy and commitment that went into returning the site back to its near natural state is to be highly commended. All requests for needed restoration action and follow-up was met with a spirit of wanting to do the right thing for clean-up and restoration. The USFS resource coordinator met many times with various groups and individuals of the Rainbow Family (RBF) prior to, during, and after the gathering to coordinate and seek cooperation in reducing resource impacts and mitigate impacts from RBF activities.

The Resource Coordinator (RC) made numerous trips into Bear Creek Valley during the clean-up/restoration phase and when only 12 campers were left. Lists were made of what had to be done and given to members. Several walk throughs were made with RBF members to see what needed to be done and to what standard.

The RC spent several days walking outmost of the trail system located on the plateau, low slope, and riparian positions. No uncovered latrines were found. One was found that did not have enough soil cover but was covered correctly the next day.

Litter and trash removal started on July 6th. The material was removed to three concentrated recycling centers. All material was examined and separated for recycling. Local organizations were contacted for the various materials and they came out and picked up the material. Remaining non-recyclable material was placed in large dumpsters to be hauled to a local landfill. some material was taken home by members to case the demand on local landfills. RBF fully met their obligation to remove all litter/trash material. All abandoned vehicles were removed.

One wildlife food plot required restoration. This plot was at the A Camp location. RBF contracted with the same contractor the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) uses to renovate food plots. The work met ANF standards and was completed in a timely manner. One other plot was impacted but it needed renovation prior to RBF use.

Approximately 60% of the main trails were located on existing Forest Service roads, historical logging trails and/or historical logging railroad grades. The main trail in the "Main Meadow" area was wide, bare of vegetation and compacted. RBF rented an aerator and ran this over most of the trails. It removed a core of soil about 3/4 inches wide and 1 to 2 inches deep. On these compacted areas, the seed catch and sprouting was greatest in these small holes. After being undisturbed for 3 to 4 weeks natural vegetation began to sprout. Some areas were too shady to plant, but the RBF took it upon themselves to seed some of these areas. Some existing waterbars were restored. One area of waterbars was not done correctly. Members re-did those water-bars. Kitchen Areas were aerated using shovels and picks. Bridging and stone crossings were removed to allow for natural drainage. Some observable traces of the sites occupation will remain until leaf fall. The RBF satisfactorily "naturalized" camping areas and kitchen sites by scattering rocks, scattering logs, and filling fire pits.

Bill Moriarity
Resource Coordinator



It is estimated that 200 acres had some degree of soil resource impact.

Soil compaction, displacement, and some loss of landform were RBF gathering impacts to soil resources. Concentrations of people around kitchens, prayer pole, main circle, and on newly developed trails caused compaction and displacement in those areas. Rain during the gathering and the cumulative number of people caused the trails to widen and the use area around kitchens to grow. The impacts of compaction and displacement on the new trails will likely last for ten years. Secondary trails have remained narrow with some compaction. After one to two years they should not be noticeable.

RBF did a good job overall of managing use of riparan areas. Stream corridors and within 100 ft of stream were not impacted until the time period of July 3 to 5. During this time the terrestrial impact was slight to moderate from camping and bank use.

Wetland was one of our first and main concerns The RC had several meetings with "Foca1izers" and councils to talk about placement of facilities and for educational purposes. The RBF moved their main circle to a plateau position to avoid wetlands. The RBF flagged out the main wetlands and had great influence on keeping people put of these areas. A small border of one wetland adjacent to the prayer pole was slightly disturbed. It is already sprouting back. Most wetlands served mainly as points of interest for nature observers.


Bill Moriarity
Soil Scientist

Rainbow Gathering at Bear Creek 1999
Ridgway Ranger District
Allegheny National Forest

Heritage Resource Summary

Rainbow Family Location

The area the Rainbow Family chose to hold their 1999 national gathering was located on the Bear Creek Watershed, in Highland Township, Elk County, PA. The Family Gathering, took place on the Ridgway Ranger District, Allegheny National Forest. They occupied approximately 5000 acres within the drainage system

Archaeological Specialists

On June 20, 1999 I became a member the Incident Command team as a Archaeological Resource Specialist along with Leslie Dyer, Ridgway District Archaeologist and Faith Duncan, Archaeologist from the Black Hills. Ranger District and Richard Kandare, Forest Archaeologist, of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF).


All Federal agencies are mandated under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), to take into consideration their effects on Heritage Resources when instituting a Federal Undertaking. Since that time the ANF has met its responsibilities. Much of the Bear Creak area had received various degrees of phase 1 archaeological coverage. These coverages were generally designed for timber harvesting purposes only. They are designed and managed by Interdisciplinary Management Teams, during the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act of 1979) process. This congruous management planning, in concert with adaptive archaeological reconnaissance surveys serves the ANF mission well. It limits the amount of possible impacts which could occur to archaeological resources during a Federal Undertaking (i.e. Timber harvesting). However, these surveys are chiefly sculpted to meet the objectives of the Forest Service, and are not designed to accommodate impacts of private developers, or non legal occupation of public property where subsequent impacts could occur.

The main area of Rainbow Family Gathering, occupied Ecological Land Types (ELT's) on which Forest Service activities usually would not Occur. Preliminary phase 1 heritage surveys were conducted on these ELT's to consider the effects of Forest Service harvesting activities in adjacent areas. Albeit, Historic Railroad Logging Era sites were identified in these bottom land ELTs only for the purpose of understanding their relationship to the similar sites located on ELT's which could be affected by FS activities.

Consequently, these sites evaluations were not placed on a FS priority list for Determination of eligibility (DOE) for possible inclusion to the National Register of Historic Places. The ANF Heritage Management Team has been working on a thematic approach to Historic Logging and Railroad sites. This approach is in early stages of development. The Bear Creek historic logging operation (circa 1925) is an important piece of the puzzle in understanding and developing a thematic scheme for the whole ANF. Could the ANF withstand the loss or impact the Bear Creek sites? It will quite some time before we know that answer. One could say, we have many fine examples of these site types on the ANF, and yes that is certainly true. However, the Bear Crack lumbering operation was on of Contra Pennsylvania Lumber Company's largest operations.

Rainbow Family Effects on Heritage Resources.

The Rainbow Family deprived the public of it's opportunity to conduct an DOE which was uncontaminated. It will be many years before human and animal excrement will leach thoroughly from the soils safely enabling an archaeological evaluation. Furthermore, their presence and impact on the landscape has left permanent surface and subsurface soil displacement which will complicate future Archaeological studies. One example of their impact is: how will we know it we are excavating a rainbow

feature, a prehistoric feature, or historic logging feature. Carbon 14 dating samples may become contaminated with tree carbon from the Rainbow land use. Carbon 14 dating generally run around $400.00 to 500.00 a sample.

The Rainbow family used the old Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company's, rail system for much of their trail network This gave them access to all the bottom land. The impact to the old rail grades was minimal. However, the heritage team was concerned about campsites being developed along the grades. These campsite locations were on much sought after land. Sought after for the same human ecological reasons which created the historic logging sites (i.e. proximity to water and flat terraces). Not all or the sites have been identified.

One site was shovel probed to confirm it's existence. Fragments of nails, whiteware were present. Buffer zones were established at the site to keep people from camping or setting up kitchens. One man set up a public shower on the site. I repeatedly asked him to move, as did the Rainbow Council, He refused. When I negotiated with him for a small amount of axle grease he needed and he moved five feet. (The grease was donated by a local garage and was not public property). Although he was still within the site boundary his impact to the site was minimized. As more Rainbow people gathered, prime real estate became harder to find. I knew that the best protection for this logging area site was to find a suitable tenant. A temporary Hare Krishna group had moved on site on July 1,1999. I requested that no digging occur which they honored.

Around July 1,1999 management strategies changed to educating the people about heritage resources, ecosystem management, and public health. Given the fact the Rainbow Family's refusal to comply with the Special Use Permit regulations, the Forest Service is forced into a swift reactionary mode dealing with natural and cultural resources. I discussed heritage site protection with many people. From these discussions I learned most people do mean well about land ethics. Notwithstanding their cognition is convoluted as to what constitutes a heritage site and what does not. For that matter, I witnessed their same confused interpretation of knowledge with other resources.

Heritage Summary and Recommendations

The Rainbow Family Gathering 1999 occupied the Bear Creek Watershed, which contained known and unknown Historic Railroad Logging Era archaeological sites. They occupied at least one site and lightly trekked upon others. Damage was minimized at the occupied historic site by flagging buffer zones, bartering with one occupant and educating the other religious group.

It is recommended that no further activity occur at the site for a long period of time. The one tenant had a public shower set up at the site. It is my opinion that it would be a high health risk if archaeologists were to come into physical contact with the surface and subsurface. It is further recommended that the same extend to surrounding area which the Rainbow people occupied. Thousands of people used dug sewage pits throughout the landscape. Most of these locations are not able to be relocated.

It is not known what prehistoric resources may exist on the bottom land ELT's These areas are usually not tested extensively by the Forest Service as we usually do not impact these areas in our undertakings.

It is inevitable that Rainbow Family's refusal to comply with regulations will impact a nationally significant heritage site, It not on the ANF then on another Forest.

John S. McLaughlin

Bradford Ranger District

United States      Forest    Bradford   Star Route 1, Box 88
Department of      Service   Ranger     Bradford, PA 16701
Agriculture                  District   (814)362-4613

Reply To: 1950
Date: January 20 1999
Subject: 1999 National Rainbow Gathering

This letter summarizes wildlife related impacts/concerns associated with the 1999 rainbow gathering on the Marienville Ranger District, Allegheny National Forest.

1. One of our most immediate concerns with the rainbow gathering, was related to potential conflicts and impacts to the timber rattlesnake. While there were numerous conflicts with rattlesnakes, including at least one family member being bitten, family members were for the most part tried to avoid conflicts. Critical periods for snakes include late September through April when they could be disturbed during denning and when they are mating and bearing young (late July-August). While the rainbows were on site most of the summer, large numbers of family members occurred outside these critical periods and impacts consisted primarily of disturbance of foraging or basking snakes. While this undoubtedly disturbed individual snakes and resulted in behavioral avoidance of some foraging areas, these impacts are considered short-term in nature.

2. We were also concerned with potential impacts to sensitive habitats including wetlands and riparian areas damage to spring seeps and p6ssible damage to streambanks. Most family members were very sensitive to minimizing resource damage and high use areas such as kitchens and welcoming areas were for the most part set up in areas where impacts would be minimized. Sensitive areas were most affected by established trails and impacts included; two streamcrossings, which were disturbed for a distance of approximately 50 ft., an estimated quarter acre of disturbance at a spring seep and localized compaction of vegetation at a few wet areas along the bottom. Complete recovery to the disturbed streamcrossing and trampled vegetation in wet areas is expected while recovery of disturbance of the spring seep may take several seasons, there are no anticipated long-term impacts to wildlife.

3. There was a concern that the mowed opening at "A" camp would be damaged. However the contractor hired by the family did an excellent job of restoration and no long-term impacts to the site occurred.

Most of the wildlife related impacts from the family gathering occurred in the form of short-term behavioral avoidance of wildlife using the area and impacts to species sensitive to disturbance such as turkey and red-shouldered hawk undoubtedly occurred. However large numbers of rainbows did not occupy the site until after most wildlife had completed nesting, brood rearing, fawning, etc., As a result, no significant impacts to breeding or reproduction are anticipated.

Scott L. Reitz
Wildlife Biologist


          Rainbow/Bear Creek/Water Quality 
                 Monitoring 1999
          Fecal Coliform Count (per 100ml)
                                                                                     24 hour
                                                            Streamflow(cfs)          rainfall(")
                                                                                     at MARN RD 

 Date  Control  Middle  Downstream  Control  Middle  Downstream  14 mi NW of site
6-21-99 15  73  22  4.4  -   6 0.05"
6-24-99  94  48  10  2.9  -  2.6?? 0.00"
6-28-99  420  1320  1650  7  -  14 0.63"
7-1-99  15  40  13  5  -  5.4 0.00"
7-6-99  86 178 143   6.2  -  6.7 0.00"
7-8-99  101 172   124  meter broke  - 24.5 0.00"
7-12-99 44 66 45  meter broke - meter broke 0.00"
7-15-99 51 94 32 meter broke meter broke 0.00"
8-5-99 106 157 90 meter broke 7.3  0.40" 
8-20-99  43  70  44 meter broke  meter broke  0.65" 
9-2-99  27  23  35  meter broke  meter broke  0.00" very low flows 

Fecal coliform counts appear to vary between sites. On most occasions and under low flow conditions, the control and middle sites are higher than the downstream site. A possible reason for the higher readings at the middle site is because this site is located just downstream of the main encampment, but that is not conclusive.

The only time the downstream site had higher readings was the 6/28/99 sample, which occurred following a rainfall event on 6/27/99, and again on 9/2/99 (with no previous rainfall). The 7/6 sample followed a rain event, but unfortunately was 2 days afterward and thus may not show the levels that normally occur after a rain event. The same thing occurred as well with the water samples taken on 7/8 (rainfall measured from 7/6 and 7/7 was 0.95"), although flows still remained significantly higher than previous dates.

It is difficult to make a determination that the increased number of people in the area caused an increase in the fecal coliform counts. The reason is that when the middle and downstream water samples showed elevated amounts of local coliform, so did the control. It should be recognized that not only can people cause increases in the fecal coliform counts, but animals contribute as well.

Just to provide some idea of the levels that become a concern, the State of PA (DEP) closes beaches to swimming when coliform counts exceed 200. This only occurred on one sample date, 6-28-99.

Water samples taken before the Rainbows started gathering would have been beneficial to determine if the counts that were recorded were a result of the high number of people. This would have provided a background in which to compare. The 6/21 reading was taken when approx. 1000-1500 people were already at the site, and 2000 people on 6/24.

It appears from the analysis that there will not be any long-term effects to water quality, In fact, it doesn't appear that there were any real short-term effects.



I have reviewed the roads and recreation facilities in the vicinity of the 1999 Rainbow Gathering on the Allegheny National Forest. I chose to examine the existing recreational facilities (roads, parking, trails, and dispersed campsites) to see if there was any permanent damage or impact. The area used for the main gathering was far from any established recreation facilities. This area supports general dispersed recreation like hunting and fishing. These activities are not dependent on recreation facilities but rather a healthy and natural environment Impacts on those attributes will be discussed in other sections of this report.

Forest Roads 135, 136, and 161 and Bear Creek Dispersed Campground were examined for impacts or damage. There is little evidence remaining that this large gathering took place. Trampled vegetation and newly seeded grass were the only evidence I could find. Other than a pile of broken glass along FR 161, no trash was found. Any new campsites that were established were well chosen and will offer new opportunities to campers in the area. The greatest impact to recreation occurred while the gathering was taking place. Some traditional recreationists may have chosen to avoid the gathering area. However, many more were attracted to the area to participate in or view the spectacle.

Brenda Adams-Weyant
Outdoor Recreation Planner


Overall impacts on Forest Service system roads as a result of the Rainbow Gathering were minimal. The weather during the gathering was very dry, helping to minimize potential damage to the roads. The main roads leading to and from the gathering were certainly impacted, primarily through the loss of fines because of the large volume of traffic using the roads. These roads were in less than ideal condition prior to the start of the gathering.

Interior roads used by the Rainbow Family remained in generally good condition, again this was greatly helped by the fact that little rain fell during the majority of the gathering. The Rainbow Family did do some reshaping of ditches in areas that had been highly impacted.

The roads in the gathering area will show little or no long term negative impacts because of the gathering.

Rick Hiemenz
Civil Engineering Technician


After July 8, Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) assigned to the Rainbow incident were demobilized. Two Region 9 LEOs were assigned to the incident area to assist Allegheny LEO and SLEO in managing the ongoing dispersal of the gathering.

These officers remained on duty in the incident area through July 14th. During this time period there was a steady flow of vehicles and people leaving the gathering site. Law Enforcement incidents were primarily limited to motor vehicle violations. By July 14, only about 12S cars remained at the site. The remaining LEOs were released on July 15.

In the weeks following the gathering, during the clean-up and removal period, few problems were observed. There were several minor acts of vandalism such as defacing of signs and painting on rocks in the gathering area. On July 30, the Allegheny LEO toured the site and advised all individual that remained that the gates on FR 339 and FR 161 would be locked on August 2. On August 2 the LEO checked these roads, found no vehicles behind the gates, and locked both closed.

A small group of family members remained at the welcome home site for a short period of time awaiting rides and auto repairs. By August 20, only two known persons remained at the site. These individuals were gone by August 28. A significant pile of trash was left at this site and had to be removed by the Forest Service.

LEO received reports of an individual still camping in the Bear Creek valley well into September and October. Several attempts to locate this individual were unsuccessful, however evidence suggested that there was still at least one individual camping in the area as late as mid-October.

In the aftermath of the incident there have been complaints made to Forest Service LEOs by the public that the Rainbow Family was allowed to get away with things that would never be tolerated from the general public. After discussion regarding overwhelming numbers and officer safety concerns many, but certainly not all, came to better understand the reasons behind the apparent double standard.

In late October a local man was trapping in the Bear Creek Owl's Nest area. He trapped what he thought was the largest coyote he had ever seen. However, after taking the animal to a taxidermist it was determined that the animal was a wolf or perhaps a wolf/dog hybrid. The animal had been surgically neutered so was apparently someone's pet that had been lost or abandoned at the gathering. Officers had received complaints of a wolf being at the gathering tormenting other peoples pets.

Work related to the conclusion of this gathering continues. Cases are still going through the courts, phone calls are still coming in from people who are looking for property or other people that are supposed to have been at the gathering but are now lost. The work to bring this incident to a close goes well beyond the gathering itself or even the final clean-up. I wish the next officer who must endure this incident on his or her home unit the best of luck and will be happy to provide whatever assistance I might be able to.