Grant County, Ore. — “Personally, I am not going to go out to that site and camp anytime soon.” Those words from Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Malheur National Forest Ryan Neil after the annual gathering of the Rainbow Family took over more than three square miles of forest land the week of July 4th.
Here’s the press release the forest service issued on July 10th:
The Rainbow Family Gathering attendees continue to trickle out of the Malheur National Forest’s Flagtail Meadow, with numbers dropping to approximately 785 as of 11 AM this morning.
A contingent of attendees will stay behind as the clean-up and repair crew to meet the forest’s Rehabilitation Plan. The intent is to assist the Forest Service and cooperating agencies in returning the site to as close to original conditions as possible in the shortest amount of time. Resource specialists will meet with the crew to ensure repair and rehabilitation is to U.S. Forest Service standards. The Forest worked tediously to document pre-event conditions throughout the area once it was informed of the group’s location, by which time approximately 500 attendees were already on site.
The Forest would like to thank the communities of Grant and Harney County for their support during this strenuous event, as well as local, county, and federal Law Enforcement for their efforts to provide public health and safety and minimize natural resource damage throughout the duration of this unauthorized, unsanctioned event taking place on National Forest System lands.
Ryan Neil tells KXL at the peak of the gathering, there mere more than 13,000 people in the forest, “We’ve got a lot of latrines that were dug. Other things that were dug in the earth. They set up kitchens with mud huts and ovens. We’ve also seen a lot of trash left at the site, those are the visible damages we have seen.”
He tells us the damages are are not visible include water degradation and contamination including the leaking of human waste into the water system.
The event was billed as a peaceful gathering, but Neil says following the deadly shooting of a dog that charged officers, the gathers were anything but peaceful towards law enforcement and forest service personal. “During the event, a lot of gathers would go around and say dogs lives matter to the officers and in a lot of cases there were some racial epithets toward some of our African-American officers, which was very troubling.”
There were also two deaths at the event. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office is investigation but did not return our call asking for further details.
Deputy Forest Supervisor Neil says at least $750,000 will be spent on this event. That money will be used to pay for law enforcement during the event and for clean up.