LaMalfa’s Facebook statement on his visit to Rainbow Family Gathering sites

Lassen County Administrative Officer Richard Egan, left, Lassen County Sheriff John McGarva and Congressman Doug LaMalfa pose for a photo outside the Janesville Chevron station.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa posted this statement on his Facebook page about his visit to the Rainbow Family Gathering sites in Plumas County.

After receiving numerous calls from concerned constituents in Lassen County regarding the Rainbow Gatherers in the Plumas National Forest, I decided to go up and take a first-hand look at what was happening. We met up with several local officials who kindly escorted us. We had full clearance and cooperation with USFS.

The original site at Janesville had been shut down. There were a handful of trespassers left gathering their belongings and vowing to pick up their remaining trash. USFS personnel told us that taxpayers likely are having to pay to haul it.

The second site was at Beckwourth. Here we viewed up to 2,200 Rainbow Gatherers. More were trickling in. It appeared quiet and peaceful at the time we were there. We learned from the USFS Law Enforcement Officers that they had cited many for possession of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamines and more illicit drugs, though I’m not aware of arrests yet.

The biggest concern from our Lassen County constituents was the fear of wildfires that could easily be started in this forest. With the combined high heat and winds, this was a valid concern. The other concern was the behavior in town around markets: stealing, panhandling for free food or money, seeking rides (even we were asked at a gas station we met up at and spoke with a couple of foot travelers), and the general safety of homes and neighborhoods from theft or violent encounters.

The USFS law enforcement officers were numerous at the Beckwourth site, and they were keeping a close eye on the group. The USFS officers were from all over the country, and were containing the site as well as possible.

It appears that the vast size of this potential event was curbed and that the group will dissipate over the next week. I chatted with a couple at Beckwourth who seemed to just want to do the “hippy thing” here a while and move on — a ceremony of sorts on the 4th of July. Are they “mostly peaceful”? Yes. Do they “mean harm?” Mostly no. But the chaos and left behinds are unfair to locals. Just the taking of water from stream sources via hundreds of yards of plastic water line is coming from someone else’s need as water is a battle in our state. And on and on.

The question is, why were these travelers allowed to trespass like this in the first place? Anyone else would be required to have permits with conditions. And a possible gathering of 10,000 would likely be denied especially in a fire season.

Annual bike races held for years in nearby areas have to hop through hoops on environmental studies or wildlife mating seasons near the bike route to gain a permit every year. No rules for a group because they just descend in mass volume where they have no appointed leaders? The rest of us must abide by the rules to protect everyone’s freedoms and safety and our public lands, in this case, from trash, pollution of waterways with waste, fire and the loss of grazing rights for others with legitimate difficult-to-obtain permits.

The question is why is DC allowing this? We thank the USFS people on the ground and local staff for their work containing it, and the Forest Order that has deterred the numbers as well as displacing many from an even more extreme fire zone in the Janesville location. We thank the strong support of our Lassen and Plumas county sheriffs, county staff leaders and supervisors to inform us and press for solutions on this Federal jurisdiction.

With the devastation we have had and are currently suffering in Northern California from tragic wildfires, we must have a defined proactive stance and make everyone follow the rules from the top down.