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 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

Comment by Andrew Sisson on October 26, 2017 at 8:53am

Here is what Kitty states on her website about contacting them:

Besides contacting your own elected officials, you should let your views be known to the leadership of the oversight committees and subcommittees. You can only contact them online if you are a constituent, but anyone can telephone them. Here is the contact information:

So no paper trail for these individuals????

Comment by Jim Casada on October 26, 2017 at 7:28am

I agree with John on e-mail. It is provable and you can save your message(s) in a folder. Phone calls are easy to brush off and easy to deny.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on October 25, 2017 at 10:20pm

I've been working with Kitty to get this together.  So here is a link with contact info for folks to share on social media. http://www.westernslopenofee.org/fee-watch/fee-wars/action-campaign...

Comment by John Quillen on October 25, 2017 at 10:02pm

AJ,

I phoned each one of them.  Because Kitty asked me to.  But I am a firm believer in emailing as it is traceable through FOIA. And I intend to see just what kind of pushback they are receiving eventually.  What do you think?

Comment by Andrew Sisson on October 25, 2017 at 9:57pm

Should we call and write letters/emails to each one of them?

Comment by Dustin M on October 25, 2017 at 5:01pm

I was on multiple local news pages that picked up the story asking ppl to comment before the Nov 23rd deadline. 

Comment by Andrew Sisson on October 25, 2017 at 4:58pm

I saw on CBS news with Charlie Rose that they were going to air a segment on this issue.  I didn't see it because I had to go to work. 

Comment by John Quillen on October 25, 2017 at 2:05pm

Dustin,

Were you on the NPS facebook or somewhere else?

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