From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 25 - June 19, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Rainbows may have conflict with scouts

by Jennie Oemig

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), with plans to have members in the Big Sandy area for a national public service project, could pose a problem for members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, who were looking at the same site as the location for this year’s annual Rainbow Gathering.

“We’re hopeful that we can work something out that’s mutually acceptable to the Rainbows and to the Forest Service,” said Mark Rey, U.S. Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment, during a conference call with members of the Rainbow family on Monday.

After unfavorable weather conditions brought about rumors of a cancelled Spring Council for the Rainbows, it was reported last week that those who attended the event had quickly chosen a location near Dutch Joe Guard Station on the Big Sandy River as the site of the this year’s annual Rainbow Gathering.

“Right now we don’t have a confirmed spot,” said Rita Vollmer, the information officer of the forest service Incident Command Team that has been assigned to the gathering. “We’re just waiting to see how it all comes together … we’re not talking about it definitely being Big Sandy.”

Rey said that the reason for the conference call was to talk with the Rainbows and explain why the Big Sandy location is not an option for the gathering.

“The Big Sandy site presents us with a very difficult dilemma … in that there is a reason that it was not one of the sites that the Forest Service offered to the Rainbows.”

During the call, Rey informed those listening that the scouts had laid claim on that particular site before the Rainbows showed interest in holding the gathering there. “In 2003 the Boy Scouts approached us in advance of the Forest Service Centennial, which took place in 2005 and the Boy Scouts of America Centennial, which takes place in 2010, and indicated that they would like to do a national public service project through their Order of the Arrow organization on several national forests during the summer of 2008,” he said. “ … We agreed with them that we would sponsor them on five separate national forests for public service projects that the scouts would perform for us.”

After the agreement was reached, Rey said that a contest was announced through the Forest Service and BSA to solicit nominees for those five locations – one of those five being the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF).

“In addition to the Mark Twain National Forest in New Jersey, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California, the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah and the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forest in Virginia, the Bridger-Teton National Forest was one of the five selected,” Rey noted. “ … On each of these forests, there will be a weeklong work period where 1,000 scouts will do work to help improve national forest recreation resources or habitats.”

On the BTNF, Rey said the scouts will arrive on or about July 26, possibly earlier, to build and improve several miles of the Continental Divide trail.

“It’s not something that would be possible to move from the site that’s been selected,” Rey acknowledged, adding that planning for the BSA project began in 2004 and materials for the project had already been purchased.

While the gathering is scheduled to take place July 1-7 with cleanup to follow, Rey said he was unsure of the feasibility of having the Rainbows off the land before the scouts arrived.

“You all and they selected the same identical site,” he said. “ … [It’s] a problem of time and place. You all would like to occupy the same place that they had previously gotten permission a couple years ago to occupy. And it appears to me it would be hard to figure out how we can accommodate both.”

In addition to not having the land occupied by two parties simultaneously, Rey said it was pertinent that there be a winter season and spring between to allow the grass to grow back so that it wouldn’t look like it had been occupied.

“We would not normally allow two groups of your and their size to occupy the same site in a single season because, you know, they’re going to have some impact as well,” he said of the scouts. “ … Nevertheless, the double impact of the two sites are gonna be probably more than ecologically we’d like to see happen.”

Being as such, Rey informed those on the conference call that the district ranger had four alternative sites the Rainbows could look at as possible locations for the gathering. But U.S. Forest Service official Tom Florich, who has been out to the Big Sandy site, said the overall consensus of the Rainbows on the land was to stay put.

“They were rather opposed to the thought of moving and would hope that somehow we would mitigate some of those concerns and they remain there,” Florich said.

Though the exact location of this year’s gathering has not been determined yet, Vollmer said members of the Rainbow family have begun to arrive at the Big Sandy Campground.

“They’re starting to trickle in,” she said. “ … The approximation was around 500 [as of Monday morning]. There could be more by now.”

Though the Forest Service is now in a flux waiting for the site to be determined, BTNF public affairs representative Mary Cernicek said the Incident Command Team is coming together to prepare for the arrival of the Rainbows.

“I know they will be having a few training events,” she said, adding that the team is currently in Riverton.

Vollmer said the training has begun with staging and organizing for the event, which will take place in two weeks.

“Right now, we’re just getting set up and getting everyone on the same page,” she said, adding that most of the people on the team come from all over the country. “We’re briefing them on what this is about.”

In addition to preparing the team for the gathering, Vollmer said they are also forming a set of rules that will be enforced on the gathering site.

“We’re putting together an operating plan that the Rainbows will have to follow,” she said.

Once the operating plan is put together and the team is set, Vollmer said the group will enforce those laws.

“It’s like law enforcement of public land,” she said, adding that the team will be in charge of controlling issues such as drug use and other illegal activity. “We need officers to enforce that.”

The town meeting arranged by the Rainbows will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale.

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