25 Jun 2008, 7:09pm
Latest Forest News
by admin

With Rainbow Gathering conflict, Scouts pull plug

By Ben Cannon, Jackson Hole Planet, June 25, 2008 [here]

Jackson Hole, Wyo.-Maybe it’s not as bad as the ill-conceived overlap of the Hells Angels’ disastrous presence during the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969, but Boy Scouts of America organizers aren’t taking any chances.

BSA officials said concerns over a scheduling conflict with the Rainbow Gathering, an annual meeting of free spirits and people living on the fringes of mainstream society, has forced them to cancel a major habitat restoration project. The BSA had intended to conduct the project on public lands in Sublette County, just weeks after the freewheeling event is expected to peak in the same vicinity. More than 1,000 Scouts were expected for the week-long project, part of the largest service mission undertaken by the Scouts in decades. The project was scheduled for July 26 to Aug. 2.

The Rainbow Gathering, with no formal leadership or members, is happening this year in the Big Sandy region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management lands. National Forest Service officials said late Monday as many as 1,100 people, known as the Rainbow Family, already had arrived for the gathering, which is expected to see its largest numbers around July 4 with tens of thousands of participants.

Concerns that the massive cleanup efforts following the gathering would interrupt the Scouts’ original project intentions led BSA officials to pull the plug on the efforts, said BTNF spokeswoman, Mary Cernicek.

The BSA’s project cancellation prompted an emergency visit by U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture, Mark Rey, who met with Boy Scout officials and concerned Sublette County residents in Pinedale last week.

“[The undersecretary] asked the Rainbow Gathering to consider meeting somewhere else,” Cernicek said.

The Scouts were planning about six miles of fence removal to improve wildlife migration corridors near the Dutch Joe guard shack area of Big Sandy, in southeast Sublette County.

Scouts were going to install debris barriers to protect Cutthroat trout habitat impacted by erosion due to sheep grazing and improve Continental Divide trails.
“The forest is going to lose out on a lot of work that we could have had done; wildlife is going to lose out,” Cernicek said. Bridger-Teton officials were trying Monday to identify and plan an alternative project for the Scouts.

Late last Friday, National Forest Service authorities began monitoring campsites in Big Sandy. The monitoring is part of a pre-approved operating plan between public lands officials and some Rainbow Gathering participants, according to a National Forest Service spokesman.

As of late Monday, 30 citations had been given out for unauthorized cutting of trees, possession of marijuana and LSD, and nudity, said NFS spokeswoman, Rita Vollmer.



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