BACKCOUNTRY TAX FEEASCO the unedited and uncensored edition

Our original Backcountry Tax blog on the gosmokies site was moderated by some folks who held an opinion in favor of backcountry fees.  As a result the blog operator, Jigsha Desai made several threats to shut us down but we remained in operation because it was the most popular blog post in the history of that site.  We decided to take our conversation to a place where our message wouldn't be suppressed.  This blog is the result.

Therefore, it is our collective opinion that the Backcountry Fee Proposal put out By Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and backcountry specialist Melissa Cobern is an egregious reach into the pockets of taxpaying citizens. 

A prominent study proves that access fees restrict use of National Park and forest lands. http://www.westernslopenofee.org/pdfuploads/Fee_Policy_White_Paper.pdf

The primary justification of the backcountry fee proposal made by park administration is campsite overcrowding which was proven false.  Click here for details and statistics to prove this fallacy for exactly what it is.  A federal fee grab.

Park management cozies up to the horse lobby but proposes a tax on  backpackers who are the best citizens of the Great Smoky Mountains.  In fact, Ditmanson recently signed off on a new horse concession smack dab in the middle of Cades Cove.

Recreation.gov is touted as a solution for reservation problems in the backcountry office but this Canadian based company is frought with problems.  72 hour reservations are required for the empty Smokies campsites you will be paying for the privilege of using.  Forget spontaneous weekend outings with the family.  Better pull out the wallet, you are going to pay just to talk to them.

This is not about money for any of us.  We love the Smokies and actually get out there and know the lies being spread by the Sugarlands swashbucklers.  It is a matter of deciding what type of National Park you want.  Should boy scout groups and single mothers and twenty somethings be discouraged from nature because of trumped up justifications for more rangers?  We think not.  Help us stop this double taxation now.  One fee will result in another.  We must make a stand.

(picture courtesy Kittzy Benzar, Western Slope No fee coalition)

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Comment by John Quillen yesterday

In response to something Jim mentioned earlier I wanted to share a recent experience with Lameass Alexander's office. I first called Sen. Corker's office to express my concerns about a pending piece of legislation (not related to the fee but rather largely impacts small, self employed business owners like myself and pretty much anyone else who isn't a millionaire) before the Senate this week.

Corker's office told me that his phone bank has accumulated so many calls opposing this legislation they can't keep up with it.  I had been trying to reach Alexander's office all morning, it was busy.

When I finally got in to Alexander's office, his resident lackey told me that Alexander planned to support said piece of legislation.  I then asked if they had been receiving a lot of calls and he told me that information was confidential. When I asked Alexander's lackey if they kept track of the calls, said lackey said, "No, due to privacy concerns".  I then asked if I did a FOIA as a private citizen would there be record of the calls.  Again he said no. When I asked if Alexander would be impacted by a large number of dissenting voices among his constituents, the lackey began to give me a sales pitch on this legislation.  I then asked if he would like to name the name of this particular constituent who was calling and he said,

"We have your name on the screen".

No freaking kidding.   Lameass Alexander. 

Comment by John Quillen on Thursday

Just when I thought the Dept of Interior couldn't reach a greater level of arrogance, Ryan Zinke, the biggest hack in the cabinet, says this. 

 https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2017/11/interior-secretary-ca...

Comment by Jim Casada on November 9, 2017 at 10:57am

NPS efficiency at its finest. And to think we were assured that this would make things so much simpler, so much more functional, and so user friendly. It's enough to make one rage at the heavens.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on November 9, 2017 at 10:53am

The backcountry permit site has been down all morning, for anyone that is wishing to get a permit and pay for the privilege of this amenity known as the online reservation system.

Comment by John Quillen on November 7, 2017 at 11:43am

NPS has received 40,000 comments about this fee increase ALREADY!  http://www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/news/proposed-park-fee-increase-p...

Comment by John Quillen on November 1, 2017 at 9:41pm

Well, looks like our combined efforts may be having some effect.  It will be interesting if Zinke finds the Senators concerns of any import.   https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2017/10/senators-push-back-ag...

Comment by John Quillen on November 1, 2017 at 2:35pm

Thanks for posting that Dustin. With regard to contacting Duncan, he has an exemplary record of protecting logging and deems anyone who questions logging as "rabid environmentalists".  I'm so glad he is retiring.  Similary, Roe isn't much better.  When it comes to environmental education in E. TN, we are woefully under represented.  Which is why it is so important for people to vote and research the background of candidates. They have couched this bill as taking care of the forests by cleaning out dangerous undergrowth.  So that will sell it sufficiently to our representatives, much like the opiate access bill so well crafted by our own Marsha Blackburn, written by the pharmaceutical lobby and sold as a way to combat the drug epidemic.

Comment by Dustin M on November 1, 2017 at 1:12pm
Voting is TODAY! Contact your Representative in Congress and tell them to VOTE NO on H.R. 2936
 
Comment by John Quillen on October 28, 2017 at 9:57am

Many folks have been inquiring about prolonged backcountry closures so we at the board of SFW sent the following letter to the backcountry specialist, Christine Hoyer.  Since the inception of the backcountry fee, more backcountry sites than ever have been closed and remain closed.  In particular is the Scott Mtn trail that has been closed for years.  Why? Because of the landowners along the trail that don't like being bothered by pesky hikers. If you think this dredges shades of the Blackberry Farm fiasco, you are absolutely right. The NPS exists for those folks. Here is the context of the letter we sent last week.

Christine,
I hope this correspondence finds you well. I'm sure you are busy this time of year.  I am writing to inquire about the closures of a couple of backcountry campsites, primarily campsite 90 and campsite 17 on behalf of the Southern Forest Watch. We have been asked about these prolonged closures for bear and I thought I would just reach out to you and see if you could provided some guidance about how long we can expect them to remain that way. We are fielding questions about the policy and protocols for bear closed sites. It seems as if these two in particular have been closed for a while. Are there still bear issues being monitored there? When a site is closed, for instance, what is the typical closure time and how is the safety of the site assessed?
Having spent considerable time at both, I was particularly surprised about campsite #17.  I have never seen a bear there in all my years and I have put several hundred nights in there. We have also been contacted about the status of Parson's branch road and of course, Scott Mountain remains a concern. It appears as if they may be permanently closed.
I appreciate any information you can provide.
Thanks so much
John Quillen
Board President 
Southern Forest Watch.
Comment by Jim Casada on October 26, 2017 at 9:00am

Andrew--You've detected the fly in the ointment. Public officials detest traceable accountability and it is little short of amazing how often local officials provide phone numbers and mailing addresses by not e-mail addresses. Of course you can record phone calls (most states have one-party consent laws) and make copies of letters, but that's both far more difficult and more problematic than the easily provable e-mail contact. Hence, no e-mail, plausible deniability.

Jim Casada

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