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“Hippies” Trash National Forest, Cleanup Continues On Taxpayers’ Dime

“Hippies” Trash National Forest, Cleanup Continues On Taxpayers’ Dime

“Hippies” Trash National Forest, Cleanup Continues On Taxpayers’ Dime

Another national forest has been trashed, and this time it was by a group of self-proclaimed “environmentalists” called the Rainbow Family. 

Also referred to as bohemianism, hipster and hippie culture by Wikipedia, this group has a history of leaving their mark.

But yet again, cleanup and forest restoration continues on taxpayers’ dime! Here’s what we know: 

Carson National Forest Restoring Site Trashed By Rainbow Gathering

Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico is urging visitors to “tread lightly” as restoration work concludes on a large swath of land off of Forest Road 76. The agency has been working on restoring a site damaged by a large gathering of “Rainbow Family” in early July. As many as 5,000 people at a time were camping and partying on the land during the event.

Although restoration work is coming to a conclusion, Forest Road 76 is still in bad shape. Travelers should use caution as the road heals from rain and overuse.

Related: Regional BLM Shuts Down Free Camping Indefinitely Due to Land Abuse

What is a Rainbow Gathering?

A Rainbow Gathering is a gathering of free-spirits from across the globe. These individuals identify with the “Rainbow Family of Living Light”, as self-proclaimed on their website.

The Rainbow Family claim to be into intentional community building, non-violence, and alternative lifestyles on their website. In addition, they claim many of their traditions are based on Native American traditions. And, they have a “strong orientation to take care of the earth”. 

So it seems ironic that they would gather en masse and damage local ecosystems, doesn’t it? 

On their website, they say: 

“We gather in the National Forests yearly to pray for peace on this planet.” 

They forgot to add the part where they trample native vegetation, dispose of waste in the natural environment, displace animals, and cause long-lasting damage to local ecosystems. 

Rainbow Gathering from guano on Flickr

Local Officials Couldn’t Stop the Damage, So They Tried To Minimize the Impacts

According to this news brief in the Albuquerque Journal, forest service officials were only warned of the event a few days prior. 

Over 5,000 people were in attendance during the busiest days of the Rainbow Gathering. Any event or gathering in a national forest with over 75 attendees must obtain a permit. But, the Rainbow Family refused. A Carson National Forest Spokesperson said the group refused to obtain a permit. 

So, what’s a strained National Forest agency to do but clench their teeth and brace for impact? 

Hillary Markin, a Carson National Forest spokesperson, said: 

“In lieu of a permit, we worked with them to minimize environmental damage.” 

According to the news brief, the forest agency responded to the massive event by treating it like a natural disaster. The agency came up with a resource protection plan, management team, and rehabilitation plan. 

Related: Campers Trash National Forest Campground, Now It’s Closed Indefinitely

Restoration Work Continues on Abused Public Land

The forest team worked with individuals from the Rainbow Family during and after the event to attempt to protect soil health, water quality, archaeological sites, and sensitive species of wildlife. 

According to the Albuquerque Journal, around 20 Rainbow Gathering participants stayed behind to help clean up behind the massive group. 

Although most of the physical restoration work has concluded, the earth still needs time to heal and regrow. Part of the restoration included replanting native vegetation that had been trampled by Rainbow Gathering revelers. The agency also worked to cover man-made foot paths. 

Man-Made Ovens, Swing Sets, Latrines, and More

During the Rainbow Gathering, man-made structures were erected including ovens, swing sets, fire rings, latrines, and more. The national forest agency had to remove trash, man-made structures, and find a way to cover and mound the latrines of human waste to help minimize the impacts on the local environment. 

Forest Spokesperson Hillary Markin said the area is already seeing plant growth from the native seed mix spread on the worn ground. This is an encouraging sign that the earth is healing.

Rainbow Gathering Trade Circle from satemkemet on Flickr

National Forest Management = Your Tax Dollars At Work

Our national forests receive federal funding allocated from tax dollars. National forest cleanup efforts take time, manpower, and resources away from the agency. In essence, the funding for cleanups like the one made necessary by the Rainbow Gathering comes directly from tax payers. 

National Forests and public lands are ours to use because we pay for their upkeep and management. It makes you think a bit differently about how we treat and use these lands. And, if you’re anything like us, hearing about land abuse is pretty upsetting! 

It’s up to us to recreate responsibly and help take care of our public lands. If national forests and public lands continue being trashed, we run the risk of losing the opportunity to use them altogether. 

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Garrick Beck

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

Much of this article is mis-leading. The Rainbows and the US Forest Service resource and admin people worked really well together this year to see that the Resource Protection plan and the Rehabilitation plan for the event were successful. The article that the writers above draw most their story from actually says that it was the Rainbows who did all the rehab work described - on the Rainbow's dime, and not as the writers make up, on the Public's or the Forest Service's dime. There are several articles in the Santa Fe New Mexican quoting FS officials and a Taos County Commissioner about how well the land and water and vegetation were protected. Here's the link to that much more favorable view: Also, Brad Pratt a USFS agency representative explained at a public meeting ahead of the Gathering that the Rainbows had done really well over the past many years complying with both resource protection and rehabilitation. I was there. The entire valley was kept clean from beginning to end, and Rainbows began sorting and removing recyclables starting as soon as the seed camp landed. Lots of older garbage left behind by who knows was removed as well. And that's...the other side of the story


Sunday 22nd of August 2021

I don't condone the destruction of our parks at all. The first thing that comes to mind when you talk about cleaning up on the taxpayers dime is the actual destruction and violence that was picked up by "the taxpayers" after BLM and Antifa.

Sarah Jane Mercer

Wednesday 18th of August 2021

I live in my tiny RV. I like my National Forests. I always am picking up others trash it is discerning. Pretty Soon we won't be able to use these beautiful lands. I think that rangers and law enforcement need to make litter laws extremely tough. I am a firm believer in LEAVE NO TRACE!! So people let's abide by those simple principles. Ty


Wednesday 18th of August 2021

If a permit is required and they refused to get one, they should automatically be kicked out! But when we start with not enforcing the rules, we end up with this mess. What they will do instead is close the area so that people that follow the rules won't be able to use it.


Wednesday 18th of August 2021

Interesting. I know people who work on the Coronado NF in Arizona. When the Rainbow Family had a gathering there a few years ago they left the area so clean the Forest Service employees had trouble finding the location. Law enforcement knew exactly where it had been, but the archeologist and biologist surveying it after the fact found no damage to the resources. Guess it's like everything else -- location and precise mix of participants makes a difference.

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