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

Forest Service
Caring for the Land and Serving People
Subject: Rainbow Family Gathering

TO: The 1996 Regional Rainbow Gathering Record


On August 22nd (or earlier) members of the New England and Mid-Atlantic of the Rainbow Family began to gather in the headwaters of Queen Creek on the Bradford District. They gave us no advance notice of their intent to gather and I discovered them by chance while conducting a tour for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. Several Family members told me that announcement of the time and place of the Gathering was intentionally delayed until one or two days before the actual intent to gather took place. Failure to make application for a non-commercial group use permit at least 72 hours in advance of the planned activity is a violation of the group use rules under 36CFR261.10J. Spokespersons Bill Baxter and Joseph Greenfeather (Joseph MacCrimmon) told me repeatedly that their "council" had agreed that no individual Rainbow Family member should sign an application or permit as an Agent representing the Family. It is their feeling that the Forest Service has all the laws it needs to administer gatherings and, therefore, group use permits are not needed. In fact, there is the belief that requiring these permits is unconstitutional.

Date: September 9, 1996

Reply to: 2700

OCT 2 0 1997

The failure of the Family to give us proper notification resulted in a number of adverse impacts that affected our administration of the Gathering. These impacts were as follows:

1. Failure to make application for the permit affected procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Specifically, NEPA could not be done in advance of impacts to the site and a timely and thorough evaluation of effects was hindered. With advance notification we would have requested that the Family look for an alternate site because of a historic logging camp on the chosen location. If an alternate site could not have been found, we would have, at a minimum, secured existing artifacts and been able to complete preliminary field work to identify suitable areas on which activities could occur. Similarly, we could have done up front work to identify areas to avoid. This would have reduced potential adverse impacts to the heritage resource. Instead, Gathering activities occurred over a broader area.

2. Because we did not have advance notification, and because Family members were already on site, we were forced into a role of continuous monitoring and evaluation as well as providing information and education. This increased the need for us to have a daily presence on the site and drove up administrative costs. Had this, or another site, been properly permitted, we would not have had to spend as much time on resource monitoring.

3. Scattered artifacts (glass, bottles, metal fragments' etc.) posed a health and safety risk to the Family because for many members it is their custom to wear sandals or go barefoot. When the family "cleaned up this debris. and displaced it, the integrity of the heritage site was compromised to some undetermined degree. Advance notification would have eliminated or reduced these impacts.

We were not able to close the NEPA "loop" because of the lack of notification and the failure of the Family to make application for a permit. Without these, we could not render a final decision and issue a permit. We were left with what we Judged to be an illegal gathering. The Family was advised of this several times without any corrective action being taken on their part.

5. The internal operation of the Gathering was facilitated through a "working agreement. or operating plan that we put in place through Bill Baxter and Joseph Greenfeather. Bill Baxter signed this Plan as Thomas Jefferson. The Plan incorporated generic standards and guidelines used in previous gatherings. However, site specific standards and guidelines relating to soils and sanitation (latrines), potable water, waste water disposal, trail access, etc. would have been developed had we had the opportunity to do a more detailed evaluation of impacts. For example, we may have recommended that latrines be located further from riparian areas and out of the floodplain.

6. Large Gatherings often require special planning to provide for adequate law enforcement. This is necessary to provide for security on the site and within the general area. It was difficult to plan for security and traffic control not knowing the anticipated number of people attending and when they would arrive.

7. Riparian Areas had the potential to be severely impacted. Much foot traffic occurred in these areas until the main trail was locates on higher ground. Some latrines were located in the floodplain. Advance notice could have resulted in reduction or avoidance of these impacts.

8. Primary access to the Gathering was via the North Country Trail. One of the main kitchens and common areas adjoined sections of the trail This use could have had an impact on other users of the trail who came upon the Gathering unexpectedly. This potential conflict would have been analyzed for effects and consequences had we had the opportunity to do so. It is likely we would have requested that the Family move its activities downstream to avoid potential conflict.

In summary, failure of the Family to provide proper notification adversely affected the administrative procedures that are normally implemented for these events. This had the potential to adversely affect public health and safety as well as natural resources, particularly heritage resources and riparian areas. Other forest users also could have been adversely affected. While these effects were mitigated through the operating plan that we had, several resource impacts could have been avoided or reduced through proper permitting.

JOHN R. Schultz

District Ranger