Sound Off

Do Rainbow Folks Actually Hurt National Forests?

Click to watch. Photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service hide caption

itoggle caption Photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

This morning on the BPP, we spoke to a U.S. Forest Service official who's in charge of monitoring the yearly festival of the Rainbow Family, an anti-establishment, pro-environmental group.

"I don't think we question their love of the land, which is very similar to ours," said John Twiss, our guest from the Forest Service. "I think what we question the most is the way they gather."

Twiss says the group leaves large amounts of trash and bring other problems you'd expect from gatherings of thousands and thousands of people on remote federal lands.

The Rainbow Family's own website puts it this way: "Some say we're the largest non-organization of non-members in the world. We have no leaders, and no organization."



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Careful with that headline! National forests are not national parks.

National forests support logging and livestock grazing, so it should be noted that members of the Rainbow Family are not the only people doing damage to the environment there.

Camping is permitted anywhere in national forests except within 200 feet of roads or paths. I don't know if there are restrictions on group size, but maybe there should be.

Sent by Edward Noodleson | 12:06 PM | 7-3-2008

@Edward, Good point. I changed the headline so it no longer says "Parks."

Sent by Laura Conaway, NPR | 12:56 PM | 7-3-2008

I wish there were some pictures on this slide show that actually show the love, brotherhood, and sense of community that most of these people have. I have been to rainbow gatherings and most people pack out the trash they bring in. It is usually the locals who come to party that do most of the damage. These are good people who just want to gather peacefully in a beautiful setting. Yes, people can gather together in places like music festivals, but these tend to promote consumerism & commercialism, which is something the rainbow doesn't want. Why does Rainbow Gatherings get such a bad rap while Burning Man doesn't?

Sent by Jenn | 9:16 AM | 7-4-2008

@Jenn: "Why does Rainbow Gatherings get such a bad rap while Burning Man doesn't"

I have no contact with Burning Man, but the Rainbow people come through Boulder some years. The only way I know is for a week or two there are legions of young, fit 20-somethings begging for money. This does not leave me with a favorable impression. They didn't even have any tote bags.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:55 PM | 7-4-2008

The day you posted this story, the Law Enforcement Officers at the Gathering came into the site in large number (unusual) and arrested a few folks. As they began to move the "suspects" from the site, they were surrounded by an "Om Circle" which is rainbow folks circling round any aggressive situation and "Ohming" peacefully to calm a situation.

The LEO's felt surrounded and threatened and began firing what was described as pepper spray pellets and rubber bullets into the ground.

When more Rainbows came running and screaming because this was happening WITHIN the Rainbow's KIDDIE VILLAGE (where all children live and play in safety!) just as everyone was gathering for dinner.

The crowd did not disperse as directed, the LEO's began firing the pellets randomly into the crowd, into people's chests.

Folks who were trying to calm the incident finally persuaded other Rainbows to allow the LEOs to leave with their suspects.

Rumor has it some children were hit with pellets and many people had burns.

A co-host of a radio show with a satellite phone was there just after the incident and called into her radio show allowing witnesses to describe their experiences live on the air.

Here is the link for you to listen to the show. It is both hours of the July 3rd episode.

Lots of video was being taken of the incident and will be posted (likely on youtube) after folks arrive home from the Gathering.

Sent by The Other Karen | 4:10 PM | 7-5-2008