Rainbow sues Forest Service for permit 

A Rainbow Lawsuit

Ah, summertime and the livin’ is easy…except for those involved in the logistical and legal wrangling between the beleaguered Forest Service and the largest non-group ever, the peace-seeking Rainbow Family. Much to the relief of local foresters, the Rainbows selected the Bear Valley area in the Boise National Forest as the site of their 2001 Gathering, which culminated with the traditional July 4th 12-hour silent vigil for peace.

A perennial bone of contention between the Forest Service and the Rainbows has been the pointed lack of a signature on the application form required for large gatherings on national forest land. (As a group without any hierarchical structure, the Rainbows hold that no one member can legally act on behalf of the others.) This year, one Gathering attendee decided to bring the conflict into the legal system and filed suit against the Forest Service when they again denied approval for the Gathering.

Barry Adams, a longtime Rainbow Gathering attendee, argues in his complaint that: 1) the Forest Service offered no alternative site with its denial of his permit application, as required by regulation; 2) that official orders by Acting Forest Supervisor Anne Archie designating off-limit areas within the site constituted a de facto—and thereby officially recognized—Gathering site; and 3) the denial of a third application signed by a man purporting to act as a “contact” for the Rainbows indicates that the Forest Service had no intention of approving the site regardless of the Rainbows’ legal hoop-jumping.

On Friday, June 29th, Boise District Judge Lynn Winmill refused to issue a restraining order against the Forest Service on the matter. According to Buck Feist, Incident Information Officer with the National Incident Management Team (the same group that coordinates national disaster relief), Judge Winmill “looked at the facts and acted appropriately.”

“The real issues here are that the Bear Valley area where the Rainbows have gathered is sacred fishing grounds for the Shoshone Bannock and Paiute tribes, and there are six threatened species indigenous to that area,” says Feist. “That’s why the applications were denied.” Feist adds that the Forest Service is encouraged by the steps taken by some Rainbows to comply with proper procedures. “We’ve been assured that the process will begin much sooner for next year’s Gathering, and we look forward to working with the group in that capacity.”

As for this year, Feist says that his organization is concentrating on coordinating traffic and providing medical services for the 20,000-plus Rainbows expected at the Gathering. Asked if he expected a surge of good mojo when the Rainbows lock hands for the silent peace vigil, Feist chuckles and says, “Considering the potential impact in the area, we sure hope so.”

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