Participants in the ArrowCorps5 project will be awarded a badge for their work
About 1,000 members of the honor society for the Boy Scouts of America have been booted from a long-planned national service project in Wyoming by federal officials in favor of a gathering by the “Rainbow Family,” an unorganized annual assembly of “free spirits” who commune with nature and each other.
The action has left local leaders infuriated.
“It’s a matter of intimidation,” Sublette, Wyo., County commissioner Joel Bousman told WND. “It appears the Rainbow group has managed to intimidate an entire federal agency.”
The plans include about 5,000 top Boy Scouts from across the country donating an estimated 250,000 hours of time to restore, repair, rebuild, reclaim and refurbish miles of trails, acres and glens in the nation’s forests.
“ArrowCorps5 is the largest, most complex, most challenging conservation project ever conceived by the Order of the Arrow and Boy Scouts of America,” said Brad Haddock, chairman of the National Order of the Arrow Committee. “This project provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for each participant to set an example of leadership in service to those who treasure our national forests.”
The week-long projects already have taken place in Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri and Manti-La Sal in Utah. The projects in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Virginia are going on this week. Work in Shasta-Trinity in California starts July 12 and at Bridger-Teton in Wyoming, the work was set to begin July 26.
But the conflict arose with the Wyoming location and dates, because Rainbow Family participants announced they would meet in the same general location as the Scouting work was to take place. The Rainbow Family events are not organized, there is no official website, and the makeup of the assemblage varies. Their activities grow to a peak over the July 4th weekend and then taper off, but the cleanup from the estimated 25,000 people expected to invade Wyoming’s Sublette County, population 6,000, is expected to take the time the Scouts otherwise would have been doing repairs.
Mary Cernicek, a spokeswoman for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, told the Casper Star-Tribune federal officials will look for other work in another location to substitute for the Scouts.
“We’re heartbroken, but we’re committed to giving the Boy Scouts a good experience and providing them with the education and leadership skills they’re seeking,” she told the newspaper.
Bousman said it’s fairly simple: The Scouts applied for permission for their project, filled out forms, went through red tape, and got permission. Then came the announcement from Rainbow members they’ve chosen the same location.
Mark Rey, the federal undersecretary supervising the U.S. Forest Service, met with Rainbow Family members recently in Pinedale, and urged them to move their gathering, the Star-Tribune said. They refused.
Rey told WND he thought the decision to move the Scouts to somewhere else and leave the Rainbow Family alone was the best under the circumstances. He said the government allows the Rainbow Family to bypass its regular permit requirements in favor of an “operating plan” but the bottom line was that the government didn’t want to be arresting hundreds or thousands of people.
“They couldn’t be expelled without a fairly significant amount of law enforcement activity,” he told WND.
Sue Bradford, a Montana woman who has attended Rainbow gatherings since the 1990s, said the group told the Forest Service where members would assemble, but no one informed them of the conflict until it was “too late,” according to the newspaper.
“The Boy Scouts have been planning this since 2004,” Bousman told WND. “They’ve been through the planning process and have been working very cooperatively with our Forest Service. They’ve spent lots of money planning the biggest venture ever for the Boy Scouts.
“They did everything legally, they had their permits. But because of the fact Undersecretary Rey, for whatever reason, took it on himself to do what he has referred to as an experimental process by which he does not require the Rainbow Group to have any permit, the conflict developed,” Bousman said.
The problem for the county is simple: Time and money to prepare for any law enforcement, public health, environmental impact or other needs for an itinerant group numbering roughly four times the county’s permanent population.
“It basically undercuts the ability of our county’s law enforcement team to prepare,” he said.
“It’s hypocritical to allow this group with no permit to replace the Scouts,” he said.
One of the websites run by a volunteer who publicizes information about the Rainbow Family calls it “the largest non-organization of non-members in the world. We have no leaders, and no organization … I think it’s safe to say we’re into intentional community building, non-violence, and alternative lifestyles.
“We also believe that peace and love are a great thing, and there isn’t enough of that in this world. Many of our traditions are based on native American traditions, and we have a strong orientation to take care of the the (sic) Earth.”
Garrick Beck, a New Mexican who has attended Rainbow gatherings since 1972, blamed the federal government.
“It’s a mess, and it’s unfortunate, and there’s plenty of blame,” he told the newspaper. “But this never would have happened, or could have happened, if the Forest Service at the very beginning had said, ‘No, this is not a workable site.’”
He said there already were several hundred people living on the land when the Forest Service raised the issue of the conflict.
Forest Service officials disagreed. They reported they warned Rainbow representatives during their initial meeting this site created a conflict with the Scouts.
Scott Scheffler, a volunteer spokesman for the Scouts, told WND the various work projects are making “immediate” changes. In Missouri, for example, 100 acres of invasive salt cedar was removed, restoring the area’s water table, allowing grasslands to re-grow and restoring the area’s beautiful vistas.
Not only are Scouts donating their time and talents, they are paying their own expenses to travel in most cases and fees of about $250 per person per week, to cover the costs of food, housing, equipment and the like, officials said.
There are about 4.7 million people ages 7-20 in the scouting program run by more than 300 councils across the United States and its territories. The Order of the Arrow involves about 180,000 of those. The Forest Service manages about 193 million acres of land across the U.S., roughly the equivalent of the state of Texas.