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 Tuesday

Yeah, he hung old Clay out to dry, didn't he Myers?  Very artful ,these bureaucrats.  Just like the way in which he has used the fire to dodge meeting with SFW.  Old Ca$h didn't get to be a bigwig in the NPS without learning the art of manipulation.

Comment by Myers Morton on Monday

“I have had time to reflect and I remain confident in the decisions made by the deputy superintendent, the chief ranger and the fire management officer,” he said. “Reflecting back on this, it is apparent to me that they used the best available information that they had at the time and applied that on the ground."

His first quote is blaming others.

Comment by Jim Casada on Monday

Unfortunately, "investigations" of this sort all too often lack truly independent membership. From the description of this investigative body's membership, the only truly independent party will be the one (or possibly two) individuals from an area fire department. Otherwise you have bureaucrats looking at the operations of other bureaucrats. That isn't an ideal situation for a truly objective and thorough look at matters.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on Monday

Independent investigation?  Not if the NPS is involved investigating itself. I can tell you that we were supposed to meet with Cash the day in question.  And he cancelled on us.  We have tried to reschedule with him but I reckon he is busy deflecting criticism.

Comment by John Quillen on Saturday
Comment by John Quillen on January 13, 2017 at 12:41pm

From the Maryville Daily Times Today.  Of course, the MDT doesn't check press releases from the park, just publishes them unaudited.  I've confronted Trexler on his biased Smokies reporting in the past.  So this is no real surprise.  But when Mark Cook busted their butts on fudging backcountry numbers last time, Trexler passed on the opportunity.  Thank God the Carolina paper did not.  Again, imposing a tax on backcountry use has increased backcountry usage.   Right, Maryville Daily Times.  You keep drinking that kool aid.

Comment by John Quillen on January 8, 2017 at 9:44pm

How's this for classic Duncan NPS Doubletalk?  7/22/16

 Then compare it to what he said in the KNS yesterday.

“I have always supported funding the Great Smokies, especially to address the maintenance backlog," he said. "In fact, last spring I wrote a letter to the Secretary of Transportation in support of the Park Service’s grant application for the $10 million it received for the completion of the Foothills Parkway.”

Comment by John Quillen on January 8, 2017 at 8:11pm

On Nov. 28 on a mountaintop called the Chimney Tops in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, someone spotted a fire and called the National Park Service. The fire started up on the Chimney Tops, and I can tell you that there wouldn’t have been anyone within 100 miles who would have imagined that somehow the wind would have swept the fire into Gatlinburg, killing 14 people, injuring another 134, causing an evacuation of 14,000 people, wrecking homes and wrecking lives.---------------Lamar Alexander.

thanks AW!

Comment by Dustin M on January 8, 2017 at 12:18am

Sounds good to me.

Jim, I have been through Bryson City a handful of times. It is very easy to feel at home there. You were very blessed to have been raised in those mountains

Comment by John Quillen on January 7, 2017 at 7:08pm

We just sent the following email to Bill Gabbert, the man who expressed concerns about the park's response to the wildfire in the Smokies.

Mr. Gabbert,
My name is John Quillen and I am the board president of the Southern Forest Watch. Our job is to keep public lands managers accountable and when I read your comments about the Chimneys Wildfire response, our board suggested that I reach out and ask you what we should be demanding from the NPS managers. We are familiar and comfortable with Freedom of Information Act requests, having made several dozen over the years. If you could suggest what kind of questions we need to ask, our organization is prepared to do so to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the future.

I appreciate your time and any attention that can be shed. We are a non profit entity with a long history of holding the NPS accountable. Sounds like you have the keys to this one. Help us hold their feet "to the fire". Any advice or guidance is appreciated.

John Quillen
Southern Forest Watch

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