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 Thursday

Interesting legal decision for NPS here regarding a killer mtn goat..  A quote:

 Yet the superintendent left the animal free to terrorize tourists for another summer season instead of following the next step of the written policy, removing or killing it."

Comment by John Quillen on July 27, 2015 at 2:17pm

“Park superintendents set the law enforcement level in their parks with no real oversight from above or check from folks in the field below,” said Mr. Ruch, noting that in 2014 NPS inexplicably reported the lowest number (12) of threats and assaults involving its law enforcement rangers since 2000, a total at odds with anecdotal accounts. “Before it pops the cork on its centennial, Park Service leadership should double-check that it has sufficient rangers to handle the celebration’s fallout.”

Comment by John Quillen on July 25, 2015 at 6:23pm

The fix is in.  Concessionaires have banded together and approached congress.  Their solution?  Extend FLREA, expand charges for park visitors and give them more control in the NPS.  

One after another told the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands that changing business practices, and asking park visitors to pay more for services, will help reduce the Park Service's $11.5 billion maintenance backlog while providing visitors a better experience.

No wonder Vesna fits right in.  Perhaps we should start a gofundme project for a Walk in Our Woods.

Comment by Rob Cameron on July 22, 2015 at 11:56am

You are absolutely correct, Jim. If this was happening to a private business, and stopping their cash flow, they would focus on fixing it ASAP. With the government, not so much. Their paycheck will still be there and they don't have to worry about those pesky backpackers.

Comment by Jim Casada on July 22, 2015 at 11:32am

This is approaching the level of being totally ridiculous. One would think those paper pushers and keyboard kadets in Gatlinburg could figure a way around this. Any citizen simpleton could, but the almighty and costly bureaucratic bunglers can't. A plague on their house.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on July 22, 2015 at 8:48am


The Backcountry Reservation system is down again.  According to Mark Cooke, it has been down since yesterday.  This is what the NPS was calling, "an enhanced visitor experience".

And to think they have used this system to track folks, target individuals and now lock them out of the "people's park".   

Comment by Jeff Schimer on July 17, 2015 at 11:48pm

This is a classic example of problems with the "computer connected" society we live in. There is no room for common sense. You would think, at least I would, that you would print out the campsite info a couple of times a day should there be a problem like this. However, this would require foresight, which to this point I haven't witnessed. Then someone could call in and the BC office could write it down on a piece of paper. That would be a novel idea.

Comment by Rob Cameron on July 17, 2015 at 4:32pm

You can't make this stuff up. The Ca$h flow will be hurting without the $4 fee rolling in.

Comment by John Quillen on July 17, 2015 at 11:29am

Backcountry reservation system is down and has been all morning and most of last night.  I called the bc office and they said they have been out for a day and cannot issue any permits until the glitch is fixed.  Therefore, all BC camping in the park is suspended because those idiots can't fix the IT issue.   The guy on the phone told me he cannot manually issue permits because, and I quote "We cant see on the computer how many people are in a site."      

Comment by Rob Cameron on July 13, 2015 at 9:58am

My first thought when I heard this was fee increase.

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