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Salmon Cause Rainbow Family Scrutiny

by David Ammons, Associated Press, June 28, 2001

The tribes believe the presence of the family is a threat to the salmon run BEAR VALLEY, Idaho (AP) -- Rainbow Family followers have begun streaming into the forest-ringed meadows of central Idaho for their annual festival of peace and love, which this year is under close scrutiny because of its proximity to endangered salmon habitat.

More than 5,000 people were already camped out over a 9-square-mile area in the remote Bear Valley of the Boise National Forest on Wednesday. As many as 20,000 were expected by the peak on July 4.

"It's like a big Grateful Dead concert without Jerry Garcia," said Buck Feist of the Forest Service National Incident Management Team.

The gathering has been taking place across America for three decades -- often with controversy. The Forest Service considers the event illegal because the Rainbow Family did not apply for a permit.

Authorities worry the gathering will harm sensitive salmon spawning habitat that officials have recently invested $6 million in improving.

Jesus Kitchen at the Rainbow Family Gathering near Lowman, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne toured the encampment Wednesday and issued an emergency declaration, making state resources available to Boise County to cope with the gathering.

The Forest Service was issuing scores of citations for safety, traffic, occupancy and drug and alcohol violations, and has been trying to herd them into the least sensitive areas.

"The core Rainbows are very, very peaceful and accepting, and I think they're pretty sentimental about their environment," Feist said. "There's another group that's almost as large, if not larger, that's there because it's a good environment to party in."

As members began to arrive in preparation for the start of the gathering Thursday, dogs roamed everywhere through the camps Rainbow Family followers use as general meeting places. There was everything from makeshift shelters to high-tech tents and a jury-rigged RV park for the expensive motor homes that made the trip.

Newly built mud-and-concrete ovens marked kitchen areas. Special areas were set off for yoga meditation, medical care and Bible study.

The hallmark of the Rainbow Family is that it is not organized and has no leaders, representatives or spokesmen. People operate on their own, and true followers argue they need no permit to gather on public land. Some readily describe themselves as anarchists.

Associated Press
Salmon Cause Rainbow Family Scrutiny, June 28, 2001

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