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.

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. 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 Dustin M on August 3, 2017 at 2:20pm

They were told to leave the property or they would call the police.  One of them is a member of 'Sevierville Speaks Out' Facebook Group and was talking about it.

Comment by Mike Thorpe on August 3, 2017 at 2:18pm

Howdy Guys (and Gals),

I am in Gatlinburg at the moment and have been here since Monday evening. I noticed on the local news that a group that is comprised of "victims of the Gatlinburg Fire" were meeting at a local Hotel, Marriot I believe? They we there to discuss some of the hi-jinx associated with the fire such as the "lost recordings" and were asked to leave the hotel once it was discovered that they were not affiliated with any govt. agency. Has anyone else heard anything about this or got any insights??? Sounds a bit fishy to me???

Comment by John Quillen on August 2, 2017 at 9:16am


I resisted the temptation to reply to all in that email to volunteers and say something about Ca$h's "closed door policy". I'm guessing that with the wildfire heat, they may be feeling some steam. I was informed a few weeks ago that people were told to "stay put" in phone calls to Gatlinburg officials during the fire. Would explain why the tapes mysteriously go missing.

Comment by Jim Casada on August 1, 2017 at 4:50pm

Interesting, and obviously not what one would describe as an "open door" policy. John, if they've got a motel room type peep hole, you may well darken the doors of headquarters but never again cross the threshold:).

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on August 1, 2017 at 4:45pm

Park Headquarters
To gain access to HQ, it is now required that you go to the Front Door and press a button. Someone on staff will buzz you in as quickly as possible.
Thanks :)



Sheridan Roberts, Volunteer Coordinator
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Comment by Jim Casada on July 28, 2017 at 4:00pm

This reeks of coverup.

Jim Casada

Comment by Dustin M on July 28, 2017 at 3:51pm
Comment by John Quillen on July 27, 2017 at 11:01am

Since when is it the responsibility of the Interior Secretary to threaten Alaska public lands if their Senator doesn't get on board with the healthcare vote?  Does Zinke, the self professed Teddy Roosevelt reincarnate, not have enough to do with the NPS? What about the citizens of Gatlinburg who lost homes due to a fire or Bear's Ears which he is shrinking or the pipeline crossing the Appalachian Trail?  Apparently, he has a different set of priorities.

Comment by John Quillen on July 26, 2017 at 12:00am

Remember when the NPS said they were going to fix the sexual assault/discrimination culture over there recently?  Yeah,  not so much

Comment by Dustin M on July 10, 2017 at 5:56pm

VIA Jerry Grubb

U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part IV › Chapter 403 › § 5032
18 U.S. Code § 5032 - Delinquency proceedings in district courts; transfer for criminal prosecution

A juvenile alleged to have committed an act of juvenile delinquency, other than a violation of law committed within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States for which the maximum authorized term of imprisonment does not exceed six months, shall not be proceeded against in any court of the United States unless the Attorney General, after investigation, certifies to the appropriate district court of the United States that (1) the juvenile court or other appropriate court of a State does not have jurisdiction or refuses to assume jurisdiction over said juvenile with respect to such alleged act of juvenile delinquency, (2) the State does not have available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles, or (3) the offense charged is a crime of violence that is a felony or an offense described in section 401 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 841), or section 1002(a), 1003, 1005, 1009, or 1010(b)(1), (2), or (3) of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 952(a), 953, 955, 959, 960(b)(1), (2), (3)), section 922(x) or section 924(b), (g), or (h) of this title, and that there is a substantial Federal interest in the case or the offense to warrant the exercise of Federal jurisdiction.

If the Attorney General does not so certify, such juvenile shall be surrendered to the appropriate legal authorities of such State. For purposes of this section, the term “State” includes a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, and any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.

If an alleged juvenile delinquent is not surrendered to the authorities of a State pursuant to this section, any proceedings against him shall be in an appropriate district court of the United States. For such purposes, the court may be convened at any time and place within the district, in chambers or otherwise. The Attorney General shall proceed by information or as authorized under section 3401(g) of this title, and no criminal prosecution shall be instituted for the alleged act of juvenile delinquency except as provided below.

A juvenile who is alleged to have committed an act of juvenile delinquency and who is not surrendered to State authorities shall be proceeded against under this chapter unless he has requested in writing upon advice of counsel to be proceeded against as an adult, except that, with respect to a juvenile fifteen years and older alleged to have committed an act after his fifteenth birthday which if committed by an adult would be a felony that is a crime of violence or an offense described in section 401 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 841), or section 1002(a), 1005, or 1009 of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 952(a), 955, 959), or section 922(x) of this title, or in section 924(b), (g), or (h) of this title, criminal prosecution on the basis of the alleged act may be begun by motion to transfer of the Attorney General in the appropriate district court of the United States, if such court finds, after hearing, such transfer would be in the interest of justice. In the application of the preceding sentence, if the crime of violence is an offense under section 113(a), 113(b), 113(c), 1111, 1113, or, if the juvenile possessed a firearm during the offense, section 2111, 2113, 2241(a), or 2241(c), “thirteen” shall be substituted for “fifteen” and “thirteenth” shall be substituted for “fifteenth”. Notwithstanding sections 1152 and 1153, no person subject to the criminal jurisdiction of an Indian tribal government shall be subject to the preceding sentence for any offense the Federal jurisdiction for which is predicated solely on Indian country (as defined in section 1151), and which has occurred within the boundaries of such Indian country, unless the governing body of the tribe has elected that the preceding sentence have effect over land and persons subject to its criminal jurisdiction. However, a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an act after his sixteenth birthday which if committed by an adult would be a felony offense that has as an element thereof the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person of another may be used in committing the offense, or would be an offense described in section 32, 81, 844(d), (e), (f), (h), (i) or 2275 of this title, subsection (b)(1)(A), (B), or (C), (d), or (e) of section 401 of the Controlled Substances Act, or section 1002(a), 1003, 1009, or 1010(b)(1), (2), or (3) of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 952(a), 953, 959, 960(b)(1), (2), (3)), and who has previously been found guilty of an act which if committed by an adult would have been one of the offenses set forth in this paragraph or an offense in violation of a State felony statute that would have been such an offense if a circumstance giving rise to Federal jurisdiction had existed, shall be transferred to the appropriate district court of the United States for criminal prosecution.

Evidence of the following factors shall be considered, and findings with regard to each factor shall be made in the record, in assessing whether a transfer would be in the interest of justice: the age and social background of the juvenile; the nature of the alleged offense; the extent and nature of the juvenile’s prior delinquency record; the juvenile’s present intellectual development and psychological maturity; the nature of past treatment efforts and the juvenile’s response to such efforts; the availability of programs designed to treat the juvenile’s behavioral problems. In considering the nature of the offense, as required by this paragraph, the court shall consider the extent to which the juvenile played a leadership role in an organization, or otherwise influenced other persons to take part in criminal activities, involving the use or distribution of controlled substances or firearms. Such a factor, if found to exist, shall weigh in favor of a transfer to adult status, but the absence of this factor shall not preclude such a transfer.

Reasonable notice of the transfer hearing shall be given to the juvenile, his parents, guardian, or custodian and to his counsel. The juvenile shall be assisted by counsel during the transfer hearing, and at every other critical stage of the proceedings.

Once a juvenile has entered a plea of guilty or the proceeding has reached the stage that evidence has begun to be taken with respect to a crime or an alleged act of juvenile delinquency subsequent criminal prosecution or juvenile proceedings based upon such alleged act of delinquency shall be barred.

Statements made by a juvenile prior to or during a transfer hearing under this section shall not be admissible at subsequent criminal prosecutions.

Whenever a juvenile transferred to district court under this section is not convicted of the crime upon which the transfer was based or another crime which would have warranted transfer had the juvenile been initially charged with that crime, further proceedings concerning the juvenile shall be conducted pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

A juvenile shall not be transferred to adult prosecution nor shall a hearing be held under section 5037 (disposition after a finding of juvenile delinquency) until any prior juvenile court records of such juvenile have been received by the court, or the clerk of the juvenile court has certified in writing that the juvenile has no prior record, or that the juvenile’s record is unavailable and why it is unavailable.

Whenever a juvenile is adjudged delinquent pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, the specific acts which the juvenile has been found to have committed shall be described as part of the official record of the proceedings and part of the juvenile’s official record.

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