SUMMARIZATION OF NFS VERMONT
APPENDIX A - Continued
1991 RAINBOW FAMILY GATHERING SUMMARY
The National Forest Service recently completed a report, prepared
by NFS Public Relations Officer Susan Denoncour, about the 1991
National Rainbow Family Gathering in Vermont. If this report is
credible, I believe, it shows that the government anticipated the
worst, feverishly prepared for the worst, yet carefully documents
the fact that virtually nothing undesirable happened.
Essentially the NFS knew the Rainbow Family "insist(ed) that
their promise to 'live in harmony with the land' was enough to
guarantee health, safety and environmental protection." In fact,
the report indicates that the Family fulfilled that promise.
Even though NFS"s worst fears proved to be nothing more than
silly worries, the report still concludes with recommendations
which are totally inconsistent with the facts it records. Rather
than simply admit their fears were groundless it appears that
the NFS opts to pretend the worst case scenario actually
The twenty-nine page report is summarized in six pages, and
accompanied by approximately 150 pages of appendices. The
following is my summary of the official 29 page summarization.
"Each year the Rainbow Family of Living Light congregates on a
national forest of its choosing to celebrate their bond with the
Earth and to pray for world peace and healing."
"There is no apparent leader or formal leadership structure. They
believe in human equality and all members have an equal say in
decision-making and an equal share of power. They govern
themselves by consensus. They advocate tolerance and acceptance
of all beings and beliefs which results in a group with diverse,
and often divergent values."
"As American citizens, Rainbow Family members defend their first
amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly on public
land..... In 1988 the Rainbow Family's constitutional right to
gather on public land was upheld by a federal district court in
"In last minute Rainbow style, the Family announced its selection
of the Rob Ford Meadows within the Green Mountain National
Forest. A seed camp of 200-300 Family members arrived to prepare
the site for the event. Much of the work was slow, but they were
basically ready when the masses arrived at the end of June."
"July 4th was the culmination of the gathering, with traditional
rituals observed. Thousands of Family members met at main
meadow for the silent peace vigil from sun-up until noon with
boisterous celebrations following."
"On August 5, Forest Service officials conducted a final
inspection of the area and declared the clean-up and
rehabilitation work complete and acceptable."
"Attendance peaked on July 4 with an estimated 16,000 people on
site.... Despite the masses of people, the event concluded with
relatively few serious reportable incidents."
KEY MANAGEMENT CONCERNS
"From the start three (sic) issues concerned the Rainbow Family
and Forest Service officials alike (:)"
"WATER - The Rainbow Family was determined to provide adequate
water from natural sources.... despite abnormally dry weather,
the system surprisingly kept up with demand during the entire
"PARKING - The Rainbow Family ignored Forest Service advise to
arrange fee parking on nearby private land.... This required the
Family to shuttle thousands of people from parking areas to
gathering access points."
"'A' CAMP - Those who consume alcohol were encouraged to do so in
the confines of "A" Camp which was located at the back entrance
to the gathering. Hundreds of people came in contact with
intoxicated and often belligerent and abusive "A" Camp residents
daily. The confrontational atmosphere around the camp is a
perennial problem at Rainbow gatherings."
"FORMAL AGREEMENTS - The Rainbow Family would not approve or sign
any operational agreements, insisting that their promise to 'live
in harmony with the land' was enough to guarantee health, safety
and environmental protection."
"ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS - Following the gathering, the Family did a thorough and acceptable job of site rehabilitation."
"SOCIAL IMPACTS - When the Rainbows left, the communities resumed their normal routine with no scars, only a few new memories."
"ECONOMIC IMPACTS - The gathering brought a brief economic boost to local businesses."
NFS CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
"There were no major health or safety problems and no permanent
or significant impacts to local communities or the natural
"The Rainbow Family has gathered in national forests for two
decades.... No one plans for it, no one budgets for it. And
although the Forest Service has been successful at rallying
around the incident once it materializes, it needs to take a more
proactive approach. The Washington Office should identify the
event in its annual program of work and budget adequate funds."
"Secondly ... the Forest Service needs to finalize procedures for
requiring a special use permit and performance bond for all large
group gatherings on National Forest System land."
"Lastly, during the 1991 Rainbow Gathering, it became apparent
that the American public has not reached consensus on the
appropriateness of large groups gathering in their national
The bottom line on "Social and Economic Impacts," as summed up by
the NFS, "There were no life threatening incidents, no personal
injuries, no property damage and no perceivable changes in the
area's social structure or values." Moreover, "There were no
known unpaid bills following the gathering in Vermont." Page 24.
My comment: Needless to say the American public has never
reached consensus on anything. However, what is apparent (as
evidenced both by the Texas district court decision mentioned in
the report, and the fact that the Rainbow Family has been
gathering on public lands for twenty years) is that the
fundamental law of this country has long recognized the
appropriateness of such gatherings. Assuming -- although
the report provides no basis for this assumption -- that the
question of the "appropriateness" of such gatherings does indeed
extend beyond the personal opinions of those involved in the
preparation of this report, and has indeed begun to infect a
considerable segment of the American public; that hypothetical
situation would only illustrate how sadly the collective American
mind has degenerated since the days when freedom of speech,
religion, and assembly were widely considered to be immune
from totalitarian government meddling.
"The Addison County Sheriff's Department and the USDA Forest
Service were lead agencies in the cooperative law enforcement
effort that also involved the Caledonia, Orange, Rutland,
Washington, Windham and Windsor County Sheriff's departments; the
US Border Patrol; US Marshal Services and the Vermont State
Despite the fact that the Rainbow Family neither requested nor
desired it, and although it complains about financial burdens,
the NFS report leaves the distinct impression that far and away
the greatest government expense was for "law enforcement." In
this area the report leaves the reader with a rather fuzzy view:
"A full report of the law enforcement operations connected with
the 1991 Rainbow Family Gathering has been prepared under a
Still fairly clear inferences may be drawn. According to the
Financial Summary NFS spent $297,171 (page 12, alternatively, on
page 28, the figure is $301,100) to "administer" the gathering.
The report reflects that $277,190 was spent outright on "law
enforcement." The remainder of the money appears to have gone
for law enforcement support (radios, telephones, video equipment
-- some of which was apparently stolen, possibly by law
enforcement personal -- etc.), NFS "public relations," and a
small, indeterminable sum which went for "surveying stakes, and
gravel for road restoration."
Compared to the price of a B-2 bomber, for example, $297,171
dollars is a pittance. Just the same the taxpayers didn't get a
great deal in return for their pittance. NFS flooded rural
Vermont with law enforcement agents. Over the period from June 1,
1991 to August 5, 1991 this deluge of police resulted in only 9
arrests and 69 traffic citations issued to residents of 22
different states. Vermont, with 15 citations, had far and away
the greatest number of citations to citizens of a single state.
NFS admits, "Some local citizens were irritated by the increased
law enforcement presence on the State highways and in towns.
Some felt it was an unnecessary show of authority that turned
their community into a police state."
Appendix H-19 to the report, a Vermont Human Services Agency
document, might easily be used to support a charge that the
government's obvious preoccupation with "security," was, in
reality, totally unnecessary:
"The Department of Corrections expended very little in costs
and man-power.... the majority of our expense was in preparation
by Central Office staff in the event of a mass-arrest.
"Rutland Superintendent Michael O'Malley, who was closest to
the situation, advised that the gathering had extremely minimal
impact on his institution. As comparison, he used 'fair week,'
which he indicated on its first night alone generates more
problems for his facility than what was experienced with the
FEAR AND REASON
Instinctually, perhaps, humans fear what they do not understand.
It is quite conceivable that the USDA, NFS, et. al. do not
understand "praying for world peace," or striving to "live in
harmony with the land." But, it seems, a lack of understanding
cannot justify a needless regulation which would stifle freedom.
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