Friday, June 30, 2006

Friend or foe of the forest?

If you've been following the news you know members of the Rainbow Family are gathering in the forest near Steamboat Springs - and getting cited for doing so.

The group has been meeting once a year for decades, but its decision to meet in the tinder-dry Routt National Forest didn't sit well with forest officials.

The U.S. Forest Service denied the permit for the gathering of up to 20,000 people and, as of today, about 300 people had been ticketed for camping in the woods.

“We’re here for love and peace, and we’re met with resistance from public servants,” 57-year-old Bobcat told the Associated Perss. Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano, part of a federal team created in 1998 to deal with the Rainbow Family, said the agency grapples with the loosely-organized group every year. But this year the campers may be putting themselves and law enforcement officers in serious danger, choosing scattered sites seven miles down a narrow, dirt road in a forest ravaged by tree-killing beetles, she said.

“If a fire starts, and it can start quickly, there is really no way to evacuate them,” she said.

Rainbow Family rules bar personal fires, favoring group firepits and cook stations. But many smoke. Campers were warned at a roadside checkpoint that car windows must be up if anyone inside is smoking.

There have been at least three scuffles between young members of the Rainbow Family and law enforcement. Federal officers say they were pelted with rocks and sticks. Campers claim the officers are manhandling campers and using heavy-handed search techniques.

Some 5,000 campers were at the site about 30 miles north of Steamboat Springs today. “Here, people can have love and acceptance,” a camper who called herself Red Woman told the AP. “And when we leave, we leave it better than when we came. We make sure every facility is filled in, every fire pit is doused, every rock is scattered. We sprinkle native grass and flower seeds, and then we come back for months to check, and if it’s not growing we reseed, and reseed and reseed."

Do you it's OK to deny a use permit to the Rainbow Family? Have you been to a gathering? We may head up there this weekend to check things out and share them with readers. Let us know if you have suggestions.


Anonymous said...

They need to follow the same rules as everybody else. A group of that size and nobody has the sense to get permits? It also doesn't help their cause that they have a history of leaving areas trashed afterwards. They love the idea of conservation, but the minute it interferes with their plans it suddenly isn't conservation anymore, it's the government bullying them. Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

They actully have a real good record of leaving areas better then they found them. Check it out.

Dena Rosenberry said...

I'm sure if they leave this year's area in great shape they'll have an easier time at next year's gathering. Officials in Tennessee (I think it was Tenn.) said they had no problems at the gathering there.

I haven't heard any "horror" stories coming out of Steamboat.