United States Forest Allegheny National P.O. Box 847
Department of Service Forest 222 Liberty Street
Agriculture Warren, PA 16365
FAX (814) 726-1465
File Code: 6200
Date; April 11, 2000
Mr. Barry Adams CERTIFIED MAIL -
Box 8674 RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED
Missoula, MT 59807
Dear Mr. Adams
Our Washington, D.C. office notified us that you are requesting
under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain a copy of
the Allegheny National Forest's "Resource Impact Report"
completed as a result of the Rainbow Family's visit to the Allegheny
during the summer of 1999.
Attached are copies of the one-page 1999 National Rainbow
Event Resource Summary, the Final Impact Summary of the National
Rainbow Family Gathering, and a map showing water quality monitoring
The last page of the Final Impact Summary involves law
enforcement activities. Our Regional office in Milwaukee, not
local officials here, supervises all law enforcement activities
on the Allegheny National Forest We consulted with the regional
law enforcement regarding this page of information. They advised
us to release this page but to redact (withhold) the name of the
law enforcement officer who wrote it in deference to Privacy Act
considerations to which the law enforcement officer is entitled.
Accordingly, no name appears at the end of the one-page law enforcement
summary on your copy.
FOIA procedures specify that personnel in our Regional
Office in Milwaukee officially respond to requesters regarding
documents or portions of documents that are redacted (withheld).
We chose to respond directly to you because we have consulted
with the appropriate personnel in our Regional Office, they suggested
a relatively minor redaction and in order to provide you with
the timeliest response possible. If you wish us to pursue this
additional step, p1ease advise us and we will be happy to do so.
DALE DUNSHIE (signed)
Caring for the Land and Serving People
Printed on Recycled Paper
FINAL IMPACT SUMMARY
NATIONAL RAINBOW FAMILY GATHERING
ALLEGHENY NATIONAL FOREST
Prepared By (signed) Steven S. Burd Date 03-03-00
Approved By (signed) Leon F Blashock Date 3/3/00
I. Introduction and Summary ................. Leon Blashock
II. Cleanup and Site Restoration ........... Bill Moriarity
III. Resource Assessments
a. Soils .......................................... Bill Moriarity
b. Heritage .................................... Jack McLaughiin
c. Wildlife .................................... Scott Reitz
d. Water ........................................ Brent Pence
e. Recreation ................................. Brenda Adams-Weyant
f. Roads ......................................... Rick Hiemenz
g. Law Enforcement ....................... Steven Burd
1999 National Rainbow Event Resource Summary
USDA, Forest Service, Region 9
Allegheny National Forest
Introduction: The 1999 National Rainbow gathering occurred
on lands administered by the Allegheny National Forest, Marienville
Ranger District. The event occurred from early June, 1999 through
September 1999 when clean-up operations were completed.
The site chosen for the gathering was just south of the
Bear Creek Campground near the community of Ridgway, Pennsylvania.
This site was very remote with limited interior vehicular access
opportunities. The vegetation is almost entirely tree-covered
with limited interior openings. Because of the extreme remoteness,
steep terrain, and limited openings, this site was not recommended
as desirable for a gathering of this magnitude.
A team of Forest Service Resource Specialists was assembled,
charged with the task of doing a pre/post event assessment of
resource impacts both negative and positive. These assessments
were shared openly and frequently with Rainbow Family members
in the hope that long term negative impacts of the gathering would
be minimized or avoided. Specialists in Soils, Heritage, Water
Quality, Recreation, Engineering, and Wildlife made an initial
and post-event assessment of the resources. The resource writeups
are included in this document and form the basis for the following
Summary: After reviewing the pre/post event evaluations
by the team of resource specialists assigned to this event. I
have concluded that there will be minimal long-term negative resource
impacts to the Bear Creek site. One Heritage site was damaged
during the event. All other resource impacts have been adequately
addressed, mitigated or rehabilitated.
The post-event Rainbow Family contingent did a very good
job of cleanup and site reclamation. As time passes, it will be
increasingly difficult to determine that a gathering of this magnitude
ever occurred in the Bear Creek area. The Forest Service District
Ranger and Resource Assessment team experienced a high degree
of cooperation with the family on any matter where natural resource
issues were of concern. I believe this is largely due to the cooperative
spirit that was established with family members at the outset
of the gathering and carried that the event by mutual encounters
by Forest Service and Rainbow family members
LEON F. BLASHOCK
CLEANEUP and SITE RESTORATION
These activities consisted of searching out and filling
in all slit latrines; removal of all litter and man made facilities
from the Bear Creek Valley and along Forest Service roads numbered
135, 136, 393 (bus village), and 161, and Bear Creek Recreation
Area; removal of abandoned vehicles; restoration of wildlife food
plots; restoration of areas that needed waterbars and seeding.
The energy and commitment that went into returning the
site back to its near natural state is to be highly commended.
All requests for needed restoration action and follow-up was met
with a spirit of wanting to do the right thing for clean-up and
restoration. The USFS resource coordinator met many times with
various groups and individuals of the Rainbow Family (RBF) prior
to, during, and after the gathering to coordinate and seek cooperation
in reducing resource impacts and mitigate impacts from RBF activities.
The Resource Coordinator (RC) made numerous trips into
Bear Creek Valley during the clean-up/restoration phase and when
only 12 campers were left. Lists were made of what had to be done
and given to members. Several walk throughs were made with RBF
members to see what needed to be done and to what standard.
The RC spent several days walking outmost of the trail
system located on the plateau, low slope, and riparian positions.
No uncovered latrines were found. One was found that did not have
enough soil cover but was covered correctly the next day.
Litter and trash removal started on July 6th. The material
was removed to three concentrated recycling centers. All material
was examined and separated for recycling. Local organizations
were contacted for the various materials and they came out and
picked up the material. Remaining non-recyclable material was
placed in large dumpsters to be hauled to a local landfill. some
material was taken home by members to case the demand on local
landfills. RBF fully met their obligation to remove all litter/trash
material. All abandoned vehicles were removed.
One wildlife food plot required restoration. This plot
was at the A Camp location. RBF contracted with the same contractor
the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) uses to renovate food plots.
The work met ANF standards and was completed in a timely manner.
One other plot was impacted but it needed renovation prior to
Approximately 60% of the main trails were located on existing
Forest Service roads, historical logging trails and/or historical
logging railroad grades. The main trail in the "Main Meadow"
area was wide, bare of vegetation and compacted. RBF rented an
aerator and ran this over most of the trails. It removed a core
of soil about 3/4 inches wide and 1 to 2 inches deep. On these
compacted areas, the seed catch and sprouting was greatest in
these small holes. After being undisturbed for 3 to 4 weeks natural
vegetation began to sprout. Some areas were too shady to plant,
but the RBF took it upon themselves to seed some of these areas.
Some existing waterbars were restored. One area of waterbars was
not done correctly. Members re-did those water-bars. Kitchen Areas
were aerated using shovels and picks. Bridging and stone crossings
were removed to allow for natural drainage. Some observable traces
of the sites occupation will remain until leaf fall. The RBF satisfactorily
"naturalized" camping areas and kitchen sites by scattering
rocks, scattering logs, and filling fire pits.
It is estimated that 200 acres had some degree of soil
Soil compaction, displacement, and some loss of landform
were RBF gathering impacts to soil resources. Concentrations of
people around kitchens, prayer pole, main circle, and on newly
developed trails caused compaction and displacement in those areas.
Rain during the gathering and the cumulative number of people
caused the trails to widen and the use area around kitchens to
grow. The impacts of compaction and displacement on the new trails
will likely last for ten years. Secondary trails have remained
narrow with some compaction. After one to two years they should
not be noticeable.
RBF did a good job overall of managing use of riparan areas.
Stream corridors and within 100 ft of stream were not impacted
until the time period of July 3 to 5. During this time the terrestrial
impact was slight to moderate from camping and bank use.
Wetland was one of our first and main concerns The RC had
several meetings with "Foca1izers" and councils to talk
about placement of facilities and for educational purposes. The
RBF moved their main circle to a plateau position to avoid wetlands.
The RBF flagged out the main wetlands and had great influence
on keeping people put of these areas. A small border of one wetland
adjacent to the prayer pole was slightly disturbed. It is already
sprouting back. Most wetlands served mainly as points of interest
for nature observers.
Rainbow Gathering at Bear Creek 1999
Ridgway Ranger District
Allegheny National Forest
Heritage Resource Summary
Rainbow Family Location
The area the Rainbow Family chose to hold their 1999 national
gathering was located on the Bear Creek Watershed, in Highland
Township, Elk County, PA. The Family Gathering, took place on
the Ridgway Ranger District, Allegheny National Forest. They occupied
approximately 5000 acres within the drainage system
On June 20, 1999 I became a member the Incident Command
team as a Archaeological Resource Specialist along with Leslie
Dyer, Ridgway District Archaeologist and Faith Duncan, Archaeologist
from the Black Hills. Ranger District and Richard Kandare, Forest
Archaeologist, of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF).
All Federal agencies are mandated under Section 106 of
the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), to take
into consideration their effects on Heritage Resources when instituting
a Federal Undertaking. Since that time the ANF has met its responsibilities.
Much of the Bear Creak area had received various degrees of phase
1 archaeological coverage. These coverages were generally designed
for timber harvesting purposes only. They are designed and managed
by Interdisciplinary Management Teams, during the NEPA (National
Environmental Policy Act of 1979) process. This congruous management
planning, in concert with adaptive archaeological reconnaissance
surveys serves the ANF mission well. It limits the amount of possible
impacts which could occur to archaeological resources during a
Federal Undertaking (i.e. Timber harvesting). However, these surveys
are chiefly sculpted to meet the objectives of the Forest Service,
and are not designed to accommodate impacts of private developers,
or non legal occupation of public property where subsequent impacts
The main area of Rainbow Family Gathering, occupied Ecological
Land Types (ELT's) on which Forest Service activities usually
would not Occur. Preliminary phase 1 heritage surveys were conducted
on these ELT's to consider the effects of Forest Service harvesting
activities in adjacent areas. Albeit, Historic Railroad Logging
Era sites were identified in these bottom land ELTs only for the
purpose of understanding their relationship to the similar sites
located on ELT's which could be affected by FS activities.
Consequently, these sites evaluations were not placed on
a FS priority list for Determination of eligibility (DOE) for
possible inclusion to the National Register of Historic Places.
The ANF Heritage Management Team has been working on a thematic
approach to Historic Logging and Railroad sites. This approach
is in early stages of development. The Bear Creek historic logging
operation (circa 1925) is an important piece of the puzzle in
understanding and developing a thematic scheme for the whole ANF.
Could the ANF withstand the loss or impact the Bear Creek sites?
It will quite some time before we know that answer. One could
say, we have many fine examples of these site types on the ANF,
and yes that is certainly true. However, the Bear Crack lumbering
operation was on of Contra Pennsylvania Lumber Company's largest
Rainbow Family Effects on Heritage Resources.
The Rainbow Family deprived the public of it's opportunity
to conduct an DOE which was uncontaminated. It will be many years
before human and animal excrement will leach thoroughly from the
soils safely enabling an archaeological evaluation. Furthermore,
their presence and impact on the landscape has left permanent
surface and subsurface soil displacement which will complicate
future Archaeological studies. One example of their impact is:
how will we know it we are excavating a rainbow
feature, a prehistoric feature, or historic logging feature.
Carbon 14 dating samples may become contaminated with tree carbon
from the Rainbow land use. Carbon 14 dating generally run around
$400.00 to 500.00 a sample.
The Rainbow family used the old Central Pennsylvania Lumber
Company's, rail system for much of their trail network This gave
them access to all the bottom land. The impact to the old rail
grades was minimal. However, the heritage team was concerned about
campsites being developed along the grades. These campsite locations
were on much sought after land. Sought after for the same human
ecological reasons which created the historic logging sites (i.e.
proximity to water and flat terraces). Not all or the sites have
One site was shovel probed to confirm it's existence. Fragments
of nails, whiteware were present. Buffer zones were established
at the site to keep people from camping or setting up kitchens.
One man set up a public shower on the site. I repeatedly asked
him to move, as did the Rainbow Council, He refused. When I negotiated
with him for a small amount of axle grease he needed and he moved
five feet. (The grease was donated by a local garage and was not
public property). Although he was still within the site boundary
his impact to the site was minimized. As more Rainbow people gathered,
prime real estate became harder to find. I knew that the best
protection for this logging area site was to find a suitable tenant.
A temporary Hare Krishna group had moved on site on July 1,1999.
I requested that no digging occur which they honored.
Around July 1,1999 management strategies changed to educating
the people about heritage resources, ecosystem management, and
public health. Given the fact the Rainbow Family's refusal to
comply with the Special Use Permit regulations, the Forest Service
is forced into a swift reactionary mode dealing with natural and
cultural resources. I discussed heritage site protection with
many people. From these discussions I learned most people do mean
well about land ethics. Notwithstanding their cognition is convoluted
as to what constitutes a heritage site and what does not. For
that matter, I witnessed their same confused interpretation of
knowledge with other resources.
Heritage Summary and Recommendations
The Rainbow Family Gathering 1999 occupied the Bear Creek
Watershed, which contained known and unknown Historic Railroad
Logging Era archaeological sites. They occupied at least one site
and lightly trekked upon others. Damage was minimized at the occupied
historic site by flagging buffer zones, bartering with one occupant
and educating the other religious group.
It is recommended that no further activity occur at the
site for a long period of time. The one tenant had a public shower
set up at the site. It is my opinion that it would be a high health
risk if archaeologists were to come into physical contact with
the surface and subsurface. It is further recommended that the
same extend to surrounding area which the Rainbow people occupied.
Thousands of people used dug sewage pits throughout the landscape.
Most of these locations are not able to be relocated.
It is not known what prehistoric resources may exist on
the bottom land ELT's These areas are usually not tested extensively
by the Forest Service as we usually do not impact these areas
in our undertakings.
It is inevitable that Rainbow Family's refusal to comply
with regulations will impact a nationally significant heritage
site, It not on the ANF then on another Forest.
John S. McLaughlin
Bradford Ranger District
United States Forest Bradford Star Route 1, Box 88
Department of Service Ranger Bradford, PA 16701
Agriculture District (814)362-4613
Reply To: 1950
This letter summarizes wildlife related impacts/concerns
associated with the 1999 rainbow gathering on the Marienville
Ranger District, Allegheny National Forest.
1. One of our most immediate concerns with the rainbow
gathering, was related to potential conflicts and impacts to the
timber rattlesnake. While there were numerous conflicts with rattlesnakes,
including at least one family member being bitten, family members
were for the most part tried to avoid conflicts. Critical periods
for snakes include late September through April when they could
be disturbed during denning and when they are mating and bearing
young (late July-August). While the rainbows were on site most
of the summer, large numbers of family members occurred outside
these critical periods and impacts consisted primarily of disturbance
of foraging or basking snakes. While this undoubtedly disturbed
individual snakes and resulted in behavioral avoidance of some
foraging areas, these impacts are considered short-term in nature.
2. We were also concerned with potential impacts to sensitive
habitats including wetlands and riparian areas damage to spring
seeps and p6ssible damage to streambanks. Most family members
were very sensitive to minimizing resource damage and high use
areas such as kitchens and welcoming areas were for the most part
set up in areas where impacts would be minimized. Sensitive areas
were most affected by established trails and impacts included;
two streamcrossings, which were disturbed for a distance of approximately
50 ft., an estimated quarter acre of disturbance at a spring seep
and localized compaction of vegetation at a few wet areas along
the bottom. Complete recovery to the disturbed streamcrossing
and trampled vegetation in wet areas is expected while recovery
of disturbance of the spring seep may take several seasons, there
are no anticipated long-term impacts to wildlife.
3. There was a concern that the mowed opening at "A"
camp would be damaged. However the contractor hired by the family
did an excellent job of restoration and no long-term impacts to
the site occurred.
Most of the wildlife related impacts from the family gathering
occurred in the form of short-term behavioral avoidance of wildlife
using the area and impacts to species sensitive to disturbance
such as turkey and red-shouldered hawk undoubtedly occurred. However
large numbers of rainbows did not occupy the site until after
most wildlife had completed nesting, brood rearing, fawning, etc.,
As a result, no significant impacts to breeding or reproduction
Date: January 20 1999
Subject: 1999 National Rainbow Gathering
Scott L. Reitz
Rainbow/Bear Creek/Water Quality
Fecal Coliform Count (per 100ml)
at MARN RD
14 mi NW of site
0.00" very low flows
Fecal coliform counts appear to vary between sites. On most
occasions and under low flow conditions, the control and middle
sites are higher than the downstream site. A possible reason for
the higher readings at the middle site is because this site is
located just downstream of the main encampment, but that is not
The only time the downstream site had higher readings was
the 6/28/99 sample, which occurred following a rainfall event
on 6/27/99, and again on 9/2/99 (with no previous rainfall). The
7/6 sample followed a rain event, but unfortunately was 2 days
afterward and thus may not show the levels that normally occur
after a rain event. The same thing occurred as well with the water
samples taken on 7/8 (rainfall measured from 7/6 and 7/7 was 0.95"),
although flows still remained significantly higher than previous
It is difficult to make a determination that the increased
number of people in the area caused an increase in the fecal coliform
counts. The reason is that when the middle and downstream water
samples showed elevated amounts of local coliform, so did the
control. It should be recognized that not only can people cause
increases in the fecal coliform counts, but animals contribute
Just to provide some idea of the levels that become a concern,
the State of PA (DEP) closes beaches to swimming when coliform
counts exceed 200. This only occurred on one sample date, 6-28-99.
Water samples taken before the Rainbows started gathering
would have been beneficial to determine if the counts that were
recorded were a result of the high number of people. This would
have provided a background in which to compare. The 6/21 reading
was taken when approx. 1000-1500 people were already at the site,
and 2000 people on 6/24.
It appears from the analysis that there will not be any
long-term effects to water quality, In fact, it doesn't appear
that there were any real short-term effects.
I have reviewed the roads and recreation facilities in
the vicinity of the 1999 Rainbow Gathering on the Allegheny National
Forest. I chose to examine the existing recreational facilities
(roads, parking, trails, and dispersed campsites) to see if there
was any permanent damage or impact. The area used for the main
gathering was far from any established recreation facilities.
This area supports general dispersed recreation like hunting and
fishing. These activities are not dependent on recreation facilities
but rather a healthy and natural environment Impacts on those
attributes will be discussed in other sections of this report.
Forest Roads 135, 136, and 161 and Bear Creek Dispersed
Campground were examined for impacts or damage. There is little
evidence remaining that this large gathering took place. Trampled
vegetation and newly seeded grass were the only evidence I could
find. Other than a pile of broken glass along FR 161, no trash
was found. Any new campsites that were established were well chosen
and will offer new opportunities to campers in the area. The greatest
impact to recreation occurred while the gathering was taking place.
Some traditional recreationists may have chosen to avoid the gathering
area. However, many more were attracted to the area to participate
in or view the spectacle.
Outdoor Recreation Planner
Overall impacts on Forest Service system roads as a result
of the Rainbow Gathering were minimal. The weather during the
gathering was very dry, helping to minimize potential damage to
the roads. The main roads leading to and from the gathering were
certainly impacted, primarily through the loss of fines because
of the large volume of traffic using the roads. These roads were
in less than ideal condition prior to the start of the gathering.
Interior roads used by the Rainbow Family remained in generally
good condition, again this was greatly helped by the fact that
little rain fell during the majority of the gathering. The Rainbow
Family did do some reshaping of ditches in areas that had been
The roads in the gathering area will show little or no
long term negative impacts because of the gathering.
Civil Engineering Technician
After July 8, Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers (LEO)
assigned to the Rainbow incident were demobilized. Two Region
9 LEOs were assigned to the incident area to assist Allegheny
LEO and SLEO in managing the ongoing dispersal of the gathering.
These officers remained on duty in the incident area through
July 14th. During this time period there was a steady flow of
vehicles and people leaving the gathering site. Law Enforcement
incidents were primarily limited to motor vehicle violations.
By July 14, only about 12S cars remained at the site. The remaining
LEOs were released on July 15.
In the weeks following the gathering, during the clean-up
and removal period, few problems were observed. There were several
minor acts of vandalism such as defacing of signs and painting
on rocks in the gathering area. On July 30, the Allegheny LEO
toured the site and advised all individual that remained that
the gates on FR 339 and FR 161 would be locked on August 2. On
August 2 the LEO checked these roads, found no vehicles behind
the gates, and locked both closed.
A small group of family members remained at the welcome
home site for a short period of time awaiting rides and auto repairs.
By August 20, only two known persons remained at the site. These
individuals were gone by August 28. A significant pile of trash
was left at this site and had to be removed by the Forest Service.
LEO received reports of an individual still camping in
the Bear Creek valley well into September and October. Several
attempts to locate this individual were unsuccessful, however
evidence suggested that there was still at least one individual
camping in the area as late as mid-October.
In the aftermath of the incident there have been complaints
made to Forest Service LEOs by the public that the Rainbow Family
was allowed to get away with things that would never be tolerated
from the general public. After discussion regarding overwhelming
numbers and officer safety concerns many, but certainly not all,
came to better understand the reasons behind the apparent double
In late October a local man was trapping in the Bear Creek
Owl's Nest area. He trapped what he thought was the largest coyote
he had ever seen. However, after taking the animal to a taxidermist
it was determined that the animal was a wolf or perhaps a wolf/dog
hybrid. The animal had been surgically neutered so was apparently
someone's pet that had been lost or abandoned at the gathering.
Officers had received complaints of a wolf being at the gathering
tormenting other peoples pets.
Work related to the conclusion of this gathering continues.
Cases are still going through the courts, phone calls are still
coming in from people who are looking for property or other people
that are supposed to have been at the gathering but are now lost.
The work to bring this incident to a close goes well beyond the
gathering itself or even the final clean-up. I wish the next officer
who must endure this incident on his or her home unit the best
of luck and will be happy to provide whatever assistance I might
be able to.