2021 Annual Rainbow Gathering Clean-up

U.S. Forest Service – Carson National Forest 

July 29 at 2:31 PM  · Rehabilitation of Forest Road 76 Corridor following Rainbow Gathering Incident on Carson National Forest Taos, NM – July 29, 2021

– The Carson National Forest is urging visitors to tread lightly when recreating and dispersed camping along Forest Road 76 for the rest of the year.

In late June/early July, the Rainbow Family of Living Light held its 2021 national gathering on the Camino Real Ranger District of the Carson National Forest along the Forest Road 76 corridor approximately 9 miles from the junction of Highway 518 and Forest Road 76 in La Junta Canyon.

At the peak of the incident on July 4, attendance was estimated to be about 5,000 forest visitors. The Forest Service assigned an incident management team to the incident who had experience with past gatherings. The team worked in unified command with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office as well as tribal, state and local partners to protect the health and safety of everyone involved and to lessen environmental impacts to the site by providing information and enforcing laws.

A resource protection plan (also known as design criteria guide) was developed by Forest resource professionals to address concerns about public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and watershed conservation. “This was an unauthorized gathering on the National Forest,” said James Duran, Forest Supervisor for the Carson National Forest. “The Rainbow Family did not apply for a special use permit; however, we developed design criteria for them to follow to help protect the natural resources in the 76 Corridor that are valued by our communities.”The plan served as the basis for site rehabilitation following the gathering.“Even though this was an unpermitted event, the Rainbow Family worked with the Forest Service following the gathering to clean-up and rehabilitate the site,” said Duran. “There was a large number of visitors concentrated in one area which created some bare spots, user created trails and other impacts.”

The clean-up and rehabilitation efforts included:
• Trash removal, including abandoned camping supplies
• Removal of all man-made structures that didn’t previously exist in the area such as clay ovens, fire rings, etc.
• Raking and loosening of compacted soils in areas, reseeding these areas with an approved native seed mix and placing mulch over bare soil
• Covering of latrines with soil and mounded to account for settling over time
• Rehabilitating user-created trailsForest resource professionals looked holistically at the area when it came to the design criteria and focused attention on rehabilitating it from a watershed perspective.

The Forest Road 76 corridor is a popular recreation area due to the springs and small streams coming down the mountain.Rehabilitation efforts are proving successful as native grasses introduced after the gathering are already emerging only weeks later.

The Forest will continue to monitor the site in the coming months and years to study the effectiveness of rehabilitation techniques and methods employed after the incident and to inform similar work on other Forests going forward.

Forest visitors are asked to tread lightly in the dispersed camping areas along the Forest Road 76 Corridor by avoiding trails and incident high-use areas that were reseeded and where mulch was placed following the Rainbow Gathering incident.

The increased use combined with the heavy rains has caused some damage to Forest Road 76. The Forest is aware of the road’s condition and will be prioritizing the necessary repair work.

Forest visitors are reminded that the Luna Fire area closure remains in place for purpose of public safety, suppression repair, and related post-fire activities. For more information on this closure please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/carson/alerts-notices and select the “02-495 Luna Fire Closure Order Extension”. For more information about the Rainbow Family Gathering incident on the Carson National Forest, please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/events.