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1997 Rainbow Family National Gathering

U.S. Forest Service Final Report

Operations (Resources) Final Packet
1997 Rainbow Gathering
Ochoco NF, Big Summit RD
R. Carver and R. Gerke

Major Duties

Operating Plan Development:

The 1996 Operating Plan was used as a starting point. The hope being that a plan which was previously accepted would be easier to get approval on. It was modified to include site specific resource concerns and Health and Public Safety advice pertinent to the State of Oregon. During discussions at the Rainbow Family Council it came to OSC Carver's attention that this plan (or one very similar) was originally drafted by the Family, discussed at length with the Forest Service in Washington DC, and agreed to in principle_ (Source: Family member Red Moonsong) Despite the history OSC Carver presented and discussed the plan at several council meetings each lasting 4 to 5 hours (including travel time). At the start of the first Council both parties agreed with the intent of the plan. Discussions centered around "words". Use of any wording, or dates, which might be construed as restrictive, regulatory, or enforceable was met with great resistance and considered unacceptable by the Family. The plan was reworked several times toning down or removing any such wording. The result was an operating plan which key members said they thought would be accepted. The reality was the Family realized it was an attachment to the Special Use Permit and unilaterally rejected the plan.

Fire Plan Development:

The plan was written to address public safety, fire danger and associated suppression capabilities. It needs to be reviewed and approved by major players such as the local dispatching office, Forest Fire Staff, and District FMO. Preparation took 3 to 4 hours and copies of the safety maps were provided to the Family as per the Operations Plan.

Compliance Monitoring (as per Operating Plan):

We used our Team's Division/Group Supervisors and the District Resource Advisor for this task. A form was developed by law enforcement to report non-compliance for past, present, or future law cases involving the family. For safety reasons we had these folks in two person teams. They were scheduled for daily patrols originally, but were reduced to every other day due to financial concerns. Also, we brought these folks on rather late in the process. It may be advisable to bring them on sooner in order to track the facilities as they are being developed. Facilities include kitchens, latrines, water sources, etc. Working these folks in teams may have been unnecessary and their effectiveness may have been increased by splitting them up to cover more ground. We did NOT work them in the areas of bus village or ''A" camp. Compliance was generally good within the main gathering area but adjacent parking, bus villages, and

A Camp areas had moderate to high incidences of surface deposition of fecal material in non latrine areas & garbage torn apart by dogs.

Rehabilitation Plan Development:

This plan needs to be developed in coordination with the District specialists. Should be completed prior to July 4th and recommendations provided to the Family as per the Operating Plan.

Coordination with State Health Officials:

OSC Resources and LOGS worked closely with Oregon State Health Officials to provide advise to the Family on food handling, water treatment, and sanitation practices which would reduce the risk of public health problems if implemented. State Health Officials took the lead making physical contacts with the Family.

Coordination with Area Aviation Officer:

Coordinated with the area aviation officer on completion of a project aviation plan and aviation safety briefing which allowed Forest Service personnel to fly in non Forest Service aircraft.

Public/Forest Briefings:

This was a major time consuming task initially. The OSC needs to be part of the briefing teams as this is a taxing job and too much for PIO to carry on their own. This can take major portions of the first 5 or 6 days to accomplish.

Other Duties


In the 1997 gathering, OSC (resources) supervised the actions of the District Resource Advisor, 5 Division/Group Supervisors, and one Engine Crew. It is important to identify the District Resource Advisor as early in the process as possible in order to gain a perspective of District concerns regarding resource concerns/protection. Supervision of the Div/Grp Sups essentially amounted to scheduling of individuals, briefing them of expectations and their duties. Having sufficient people after the fourth of July and prior to total demobilization of Rainbows is important in order to ensure compliance with the operating plan. Supervision of the Engine was not a problem as we used local resources and the engine was on standby at the local ranger station when IA resources were required by the Fire Plan.

It is important for the District Resource Advisor to have a full understanding of their role. The DRA should serve on the team but should also be able to make resource decisions on behalf of the Ranger. They also serve as liaison between the District and the Team.

Shift Briefings:

This was a minor item in 1997. OSC's saw a need to attend only those briefings where new LEO's were brought in. We saw no need to have OSC attend all briefings since the info tended not to change after the initial shift.

On Site Visitors

It is a good idea for the OSC to be somewhat familiar with the gathering area and camp layout. The amount of time that can be spent on site is extremely variable.

Coordination of activities with Rainbows:

This is an important item. Gaining family member cooperation is an exercise in diplomacy that can significantly reduce stress and workload. In 1997 we found that we had common concerns regarding parking, especially along main access routes. Family members did most of the in-field contacts and assisted with putting notes on vehicles that were illegally parked. When it came time to tow vehicles, we had complete cooperation and understanding from family members. Coordination of activities can be done either in council, or by contacts with individuals who serve as "focalizers". It may be best to use the latter method for the majority of cooperation contacts. A word of advice: avoid giving direction to the family if possible. They will refuse to comply or at best will resist.

Alligators that were specific to this gathering:

Timber Sale Operations: An active sale was going on in the area when the family chose the spot. We had problems with public safety and security of equipment. We did gain rainbow cooperation with the public safety issues for a safe resolution that met the needs of the family, the logger, and the District. We explained to the family the repercussions of shutting the logging down and the bad press that would go through the local community. They quickly agreed to cooperate.

Cattle Drive: A local rancher drove 120 pairs through the event. At first he was concerned and even talked of canceling the drive. We convinced him to talk to the family about the event. He did, the family cooperated and the drive came off nicely.

Endurance Ride: An endurance ride (commercial permit) is scheduled for the event area on the 19th of July. Initially, we spent time as the middle man between the permit tee and the District. After about the third contact, the District and the Team came to the conclusion that this was a District matter and that all future contacts/discussions would be led by the District.

Airspace Coordination: We considered a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the gathering area as we had reports of lots of airborne rubber-neckers. On follow up, we found that the "lots" turned out to be 2 airplanes per day and the TFR became a non-issue. We did issue a NOTAM for the area as the site was next to a military route.

Siting of Medical Unit: we assisted in this task by coordination of the site with District personnel and a show-me trip of medical staff to the selected site.

Excess Dogs and Parvo: we coordinated with local humane society and dog pound on the possibility of 10-100 dogs being left when the family had departed. Historically, this has bee the number of animals left on site when everyone pulled out. Because of an outbreak of Parvo, the dog pound says that many of the animals will probably need to be destroyed. Destruction of animals costs between $15-25 per critter.

WO/SO/RO Visits: the gathering is extremely attractive to folks from all of these not to mention local, state and national politicians. Be prepared to carry part of the load in briefing these people.

Media Flights: We determined where media helicopters should land and coordinated let and long of these sites and then passed the word to local dispatch organization and PIO.


1. Present the Family with the Operating Plan "THEY" wrote (edited to include local resource and health advice) and tell them that we (the Forest Service) agree with the intent. The Family believes they can protect the natural resources and insure public health & safety. Allow them to implement their procedures and monitor for compliance. DO NOT "waste" your time sitting in council word-smithing a document which they will more than likely reject.

2. Bring on the DIVS early to be making on the ground contacts and gather intelligence on facility development. The OSC's time is dedicated to meetings, briefings, contributing to determining how the incident will be managed, figuring out what it all means, etc..

3. Don't get focused on the main gathering area. Recognize that the Family, while accepting their presence, does not make much of an effort to apply their operating plan practices in the bus village(s), A Camp, or parking areas. There was more non-compliance issues in these areas than the main gathering. These areas are recognized as more dangerous areas and the tendency was to "not go in there". They are an accepted part of the gathering by the Family and subject to the same requirements.

4. If you decide to "negotiate" agreements with the Family recognize that councils prior to July 1 are not considered official because the gathering has not started. Anything discussed will need to be presented again July 1 or later. Because discussions can be lengthy it is advisable to start prior to July 1.

5. Don't under estimate the amount of space a gathering of this size will occupy. The Indian Praire Meadow is approximately 350 acres in size and the Family members occupied approximately 3 Sections (1920 acres) at its peak population estimated at 25,000.

Rich Carver
Rock Gerke

Operations Section Chiefs Resources
Central Oregon Incident Management Team

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