- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

SAGUACHE, Colo. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service is allowing a hundreds of people to camp in the Rio Grande National Forest, despite the fact that it violates strict limits on the number of people allowed in those areas.

Forest officials said it’s almost impossible to enforce the limits because the campers have no leaders and no one who can give orders. Normally, any group of more than 75 people wanting to use the National Forest would be required to sign a group permit.

Instead of a permit, the Forest Service developed an operating plan that outlines their expectations for how the Rainbow Family will utilize National Forest resources. The plan includes parking only in marked-off areas, maintaining cleanliness and sanitation in kitchens and latrines, and not disturbing archaeological resources such as “wickiups,” remnants of Ute shelters that can be difficult to distinguish from firewood.

Angie Krall, acting district ranger for the national forest in southern Colorado, said the group known as the Rainbow Family of Living Light was allowed to camp there because they are exercising their constitutional rights to gather and exercise their religious beliefs. The group meets sporadically across the country, and occasionally holds national gatherings that can attract more than 15,000 people.

Krall said most people are following the rules, but a few tickets have been issued for drug use and illegal parking.

“Mostly, these are good people,” she said. “You come into this gathering, you are fed. You are taken care of.”

Marty Heartsong , a gray-haired man who attended his first Rainbow Gathering in 1992, told the Alamosa Valley Courier the forest is his church.

“This is where we come to pray,” said Heartsong.

“We’re everyone from homeless people on the streets to hyper-spiritual people living in ashrams and monasteries,” said Alix Tate, 24. “We come together and form this harmonious system that is able to work together despite their differences.”


Information from: Valley Courier, https://www.alamosanews.com/

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