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 John Quillen on October 25, 2017 at 7:20am

I hope ya'll will post a comment here.  Not that comments matter to the NPS, but we may FOIA them and stick it in their face about this outrageous NPS Fee increase throughout the system.   


This fee scheme is highway robbery. We pay taxes for the upkeep and use of these lands and if you, Ryan Zinke, a self proposed Roosevelt Republican, think taxpayers will stand for this you are dumber than the horse you rode in on. Take that stupid flag down from the NPS headquarters and start doing your job which is to correct the corrupt culture of the NPS. However, I doubt you will be able to do so given your history of travel fraud personally. I object to this double taxation for use of public lands as much as I object to your leadership of the NPS. This scheme and your leadership are an abomination to the American people.

John Quillen

Comment by John Quillen on October 24, 2017 at 8:49pm

This is absolutely outrageous.  Are you folks aware of what is getting ready to happen here?  Let me just boil a small part of Zinke's proposal down, but PLEASE read the remainder of the article.  

During the peak season, the release explained, a seven-day-long "entrance fee would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75."

Comment by John Quillen on October 12, 2017 at 1:04pm

Jim's comments mirror the ones I left at NPT about motorcycles. And I want to be specific.  Harley Davidson motorcycles, which are engineered for noise.  As a motorcyclist myself, I detest the intrusion of that din deep into the backcountry.  Do I think the NPS will tackle either on their own?  No.  There are rules about overflights and they are strictly banned.  PEER is having to sue to make the NPS enforce their own rules.  Ditmanson types avoided enforcing the overflight rules because it involves Sevier county tourism, pure and simple.  They are cowardly relying on the "walk in the woods" type guides to do their dirty work for them, yet again.  And it will benefit her in continued steering of clients to her business.  Just another level of what they did for the NPS with the backcountry tax.

Comment by Jim Casada on October 12, 2017 at 12:49pm

Interestingly, most of the air tour traffic seems to be on the TN side of the Park (and that's fine with this old NC guy). Personally, what I find really disturbing when it comes to noise isn't the planes but motorcycles. Some of them can be heard for miles, especially when they are on the higher reaches of the Newfound Gap Road. It seems some of the riders aren't happy until the blooming things are roaring at an ear-shattering decibel level.

Then there are horses (on trail and off), the folks who take dogs into the backcountry, Deep Creek tubers, and a bunch of other irritants. I reckon I'm just a curmudgeon, but there's no doubt in my mind that the NPS folks are highly selective when it comes to enforcing regulations.

Jim Casada

Comment by Dustin M on October 12, 2017 at 12:42pm

We were just talking the other day on Facecrook about all the airplane crashes inside the Park. 

Comment by John Quillen on October 12, 2017 at 11:38am

* In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the owner of a tour guide company whose work and personal life have been disrupted by over 800 annual overflights which interrupt silent walks and destroy a key purpose of the guided tours - positive experiences with nature - by causing employees and customers to want to duck every fifteen minutes from the constant buzzing overhead; and..

I suspect we know who the tour operator is. However, I probably agree with HER on this particular issue.

Comment by Andrew Sisson on October 9, 2017 at 10:08pm

I emailed my Georgia Senators just now....

Comment by Dustin M on October 8, 2017 at 10:42pm

Going to have to print it out tomorrow and snail mail it. 

Comment by John Quillen on October 8, 2017 at 10:39pm

Thanks for your diligence, Dustin.  I just sent emails to both Lameass and  Bob Corker, who just rose about 100% in my estimation today alone. (Of course, Lameass's email server is down and they couldn't accept my comments)

Comment by Dustin M on October 8, 2017 at 10:36pm

It's a never ending fight. I will share the information. Thanks 

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