Forest Service Spent About $575,000 on Rainbow Gathering

By Beacon Staff

BUTTE – Costs related to the Rainbow Family’s annual gathering held this year in southwestern Montana added up to about $575,000 for the U.S. Forest Service.

Tim Walther, assistant special agent in charge of law enforcement for the Forest Service, tells the Montana Standard that law enforcement expenses totaled about $400,000 and administration another $175,000.

About 10,000 people attended the gathering near Saginaw Creek in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest about 10 miles southwest of Jackson. The event ran from June 21 to July 7, but some Rainbow members stayed about a month.

Walther said the size and complexity of the gathering required additional officers brought in from around the country. He also said the agency had to be prepared to handle an even bigger crowd than what showed up this year.

During the gathering, officials made two arrests. They also issued 49 tickets and wrote 399 warning notices for failure to follow Forest Service regulations.

“The effectiveness or value of Forest Service law enforcement cannot and should not be measured by the number of arrests,” Walter said. “Law enforcement’s role in managing large group events such as this goes beyond arresting individuals suspected of breaking the law.”

Visitors arrived in nearly 1,500 vehicles, and while camped set up kitchens, bathrooms and other structures.

During the gathering, Forest Service spokeswoman Cass Cairns said that about two dozen law enforcement officers patrolled the site on a rotating basis. The agency also paid Beaverhead County about $10,000 for extra law enforcement support.

Patty Bates, a Forest Service spokeswoman, told the Rotary Club in Dillon that members attending this year’s Rainbow Family gathering were rowdier than those who showed up in past years.

“The message we received was that the flavor of the gathering and the gathering participants has changed in recent years,” Bates said. “It was a different crowd that came this year.”

A person attending the gathering, 67-year-old Robbie Gordon, told the newspaper while the event was taking place that the police presence was excessive.

Walther declined to comment about the impression others had about law enforcement at the gathering.

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