Out of the woods, blithe spirit

  • THE PARTY'S OVER: Rainbow Family followers sort therecyclables in a mound of garbage outside theirencampment

    David Simnitt, The Idaho Statesman
 

Oh my! Oh dear! Imagine ... 20,000 hippies. Not doing a lick of work. Messing up meadows like animals. Befouling streams like animals. Eating, sleeping, defecating like animals. Fornicating like bunny animals, thumping bongos, tooting flutes, gang-singing old Donovan songs, dancing around without a care in their heads like Jenna Bush in a cowboy bar, not ordering a single darn thing from Avon or eBay and not thinking a single darn thought about Britney or Tomb Raider, hugging one another like sissies and doing their best not to start a war. And all this in one of Ma Nature's more pristine nooks. You know what I mean, one of those places the developers like to talk about when they're trying to sell you a $250,000 1/4-acre getaway in the hills.

Too bad those hippies aren't cows. Then it'd just be business as usual. It's likely you don't know what I'm talking about, so allow me to up-catch you: the Rainbow Family - a loosely organized group of frolickers a bit like the Shriners, only with considerably more moderate drinking habits - recently held a large (20,000, give or take) frolic in an alpine meadow. For nearly three decades, they've been meeting like this all over the West. This year, through a process known only to the King and Queen of the Hippies, they chose a spot in southern Idaho É indicating the King and Queen of the Hippies aren't as hip to political realities as possibly they ought to be.

To further complicate matters, the spot they chose to frolic in was also selected by some salmon to spawn in. As a result of this scheduling glitch, most everyone here 'bouts got mad at them. At the hippies, that is. Governor Dirk Kempthorne, worried in advance, even declared neighboring counties disaster areas in preparation for an anticipated disaster. An imagined disaster, if you will. "An alternative future" disaster, if one doesn't mind sounding a little like a hippie. The mere thought of such a disaster gave the governor ample opportunity to wear jeans like a regular Joe and talk like Idaho's most ardent lover of anadromous fish.

Most environmentalists and the U.S. Forest Service were mad, saying the Family endangered the spawning activities of what few salmon make it through the gantlet of Columbia Basin dams - on which, as far as I know, the Forest Service has no official position. (As a matter of interest, Governor Kempthorne is all for the dams.) I assume this is the same Forest Service that recommended rescinding Clinton's ban on road construction on federal forests, but I could be wrong. Surely a Forest Service so upset over a big hippie picnic would also object to an invasion of bulldozers and logging trucks, wouldn't you think?

Idaho's Sen. Larry Craig was plenty mad at them. I suspect Craig's been mad at hippies since the '60s, back when he was a mere student eager to get elected to something and the resident longhairs giggled every time he opened his mouth. Yet he maintains he objected to this event because the hippies didn't follow the rules - didn't get the proper permission to use this particular piece of America for a few days. And it's true, the hippies could have avoided this whole whoop-dee-doo had they applied for a grazing permit. In fact, had they told Sen. Larry they intended to dig an open-pit mine, he might have personally instructed the Forest Service to go soak its head.

Some Indians were mad, too, saying the Rainbows were congregating on sacred land, a place Native Americans hold holy. I guess no one else is supposed to feel that way. Maybe now would be a good time to suggest to the Indians that if their spiritual values and cultural heritage will be carried on into the Age of Casinos and beyond, it won't be Governor Kempthorne, the Forest Service, or Larry Craig doing the carrying.

I was a little mad at them, too. But I expect the spot they chose will recover, and really, aren't 20,000 hippies as entitled to go "OM-ing" in Idaho's meadows as 20,000 fishermen are to go "steelheading" on Idaho's rivers?

But without realizing it - probably because they're such babes in the woods when it comes to environmental politics - the Rainbow Family has handed hydro-lovers like Craig and Kempthorne another diversionary tactic ... another distraction to take folks' minds away from the reality that any one of those many dams between Idaho and the Pacific kill more salmon in a day than all the world's hippies could in a lifetime. Even if they worked at it.

Bill Cope writes for the Boise Weekly in Idaho. He is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News.

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Bill Cope

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...