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Rainbow Family Ordered to Vacate Plumas National Forest



The Rainbow Family, a loose-knit group of nomadic spiritual seekers, has been gathering for annual summer encampments in national forests for over half a century. These gatherings, known as Rainbow Gatherings, feature music, workshops, rituals, and a communal lifestyle.

Recent Encampment in Plumas National Forest

This year's Rainbow Gathering took place in the Plumas National Forest in California from July 1-7. As is typical, the group established a temporary encampment deep within the forest, away from roads and developed areas.

Environmental Concerns

However, this year's gathering raised significant environmental concerns. The Rainbow Family's presence in the Plumas National Forest resulted in:

  • Water contamination: Human waste and trash contaminated water sources in the area.
  • Deforestation: The gathering cleared vegetation and damaged trees, disrupting the forest ecosystem.
  • Wildlife disturbance: The large number of people and the noise generated by the event disturbed wildlife and disrupted their natural habitats.

Official Response

In response to these concerns, the U.S. Forest Service ordered the Rainbow Family to leave the Plumas National Forest by July 9. The Forest Service cited violations of forest regulations, including the prohibition of camping in unauthorized areas and the threat of environmental damage.

Evacuation Process

Over 10,000 Rainbow Family members were present at the gathering. The evacuation process was gradual and peaceful, with the group leaving the forest in a series of stages over several days. Law enforcement officers assisted in the evacuation, ensuring a smooth transition.

Cleanup and Recovery

Once the Rainbow Family had departed, the Forest Service initiated a extensive cleanup operation. The goal was to restore the forest to its pre-gathering condition, removing trash, cleaning water sources, and repairing damaged vegetation.

Ongoing Discussions

The 2023 Rainbow Gathering incident has sparked ongoing discussions about the group's impact on the environment and the role of the Forest Service in managing these events.

Perspectives on the Issue

Rainbow Family Members:

  • The Rainbow Family maintains that its gatherings are peaceful and respectful of the environment.
  • They argue that their presence in the forest is temporary and has minimal impact.
  • They value the opportunity to connect with nature and share their beliefs with others.

Environmental Advocates:

  • Environmental organizations have expressed concern about the negative effects of Rainbow Gatherings on forest ecosystems.
  • They argue that the gatherings result in pollution, habitat degradation, and wildlife displacement.
  • They believe that the Forest Service should take a more proactive role in regulating these events.

Forest Service Perspective:

  • The Forest Service recognizes the cultural significance of Rainbow Gatherings but must balance this with its responsibility to protect the environment.
  • The agency has established regulations to minimize the impact of these events on forest resources.
  • The Forest Service is committed to working with the Rainbow Family to find ways to accommodate their gatherings while also protecting the forest.

Future of Rainbow Gatherings

The future of Rainbow Gatherings in national forests remains uncertain. The Forest Service is reviewing its policies and considering potential changes to manage these events.


The Rainbow Family's encampment in the Plumas National Forest this year raised significant environmental concerns, leading to an evacuation order from the U.S. Forest Service. The incident has sparked ongoing discussions about the balance between cultural gatherings and environmental protection. The Forest Service is working with stakeholders to develop solutions that address these concerns while allowing the Rainbow Family to continue its tradition of gathering in the nation's forests.

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