After the Rainbow Family Gathering's descent upon the Carson National Forest from late June to July 7, between 40 and 50 people have stayed behind to deal with the waste made by an estimated 5,000 people (at its height) in the area near Cerro Vista off Forest Road 76 in Taos County.

The group, who gathered as a smaller "prism gathering" (one of four around the country) drew nomads and locals alike, with many spending two full weeks up in the mountains near Tres Ritos, much to the dismay of some Taoseños, as could be seen visibly on social media.

Though perhaps more concerning to locals than what the gatherers brought to the area is what they left behind.

However, U.S. Forest Service public information officer Hilary Markin said thanks to a dedicated cleanup crew and the aid of the federal agency, the land is on track to be reclaimed.

Markin explained that because the group has no specified leader, and they have not been able to get gatherers to sign a permit since its inception, they have dealt with the situation by asking what would normally be required of anyone seeking a special use permit (SUP) to gather in a large group in the national forest.

"We have put together a rehabilitation plan [and] we are working with those that are left up at the site to follow it," said Markin. The plan includes rehabilitation measures for "making sure all the garbage has been taken off the land and disposed of properly, covering up any slit trenches, latrines, compost pits … and breaking up any soil compaction."

The Forest Service has handled the Rainbow Gathering just like any other forest "incident," said Markin, and brought in a Type III incident management team as they would for a forest fire or other natural disaster.

This is not to say the incident was similar to a natural disaster though. Markin said the event wasn't out of control and "was pretty similar to what we've experienced in past years," though she acknowledged she cannot speak to all previous gatherings.

She said the duties of the Forest Service incident management team were not just to help with the health and safety of the people, but to also help with resource protection, "ensuring that they are not damaging the natural resources out there that are still valuable to the community."

The resource protection plan includes monitoring and checking in on the cleanup team, and even helping provide resources at times. Markin said they have provided the group with wood chips and native seeds to help them reclaim the most heavily trafficked areas.

"Overall it went really well as far as the health and safety of everybody involved and working as best we can to protect the natural resources," she said. "We know how valuable the National Forest is - in particular that area or along Forest Road 76 - to the community."

Taos County Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell, who represents Taos' fifth district in which the gathering took place, said she also felt the land was properly being taken care of after taking a visit to the gathering site on Monday (July 12).

O'Donnell also said she hardly saw any wrongdoing at the gathering when she attended on July 4 for their silent prayer for world peace. She said she felt they knew what they were doing when it came to cleaning up the site.

"They clean up an area better than any local campers or out of state campers," she said after her post-gathering visit. She added that she went past the gathering site boundary with Waste Management only to find "a campfire still smoldering with a bunch of alcoholic cans and glass in it and a bag left behind.

"My observation would be that the Rainbow people clean up better than any local people I've seen trash the forest," she said.

O'Donnell also disputed the Forest Service's claim of 5,000 attendees on Sunday, July 4, saying she saw far less, and counted approximately 600 cars on the way out.

The cleanup is set to go on for a week or more if necessary.

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