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 Jim Casada 1 hour ago

Apparently there is no general awareness, either with PEER or NPT, of the fact that the NPS has hired "swine snipers" for some time. I'm not necessarily against this, and in fact would in all likelihood be fully supportive provided well-qualified woodsmen/marksmen were doing it. I do not know whether or not this is the case, but I'm betting at least two or three people who read this forum have run across these snipers.

The GSMNP tries to keep it secret but when you are off trail and run into a guy in fully camo carrying a scoped rifle, it's pretty obvious one of two things is in the works. You've encountered a poacher or a swine sniper.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen 4 hours ago

Apparently old Pedro has stepped in a pile of it.  This is what PEER says about his proposed Python hunt in the Everglades and relates it back to the Smokies.   

Unfortunately, what this episode really reflects is an advancing institutional decay in the quality of national park leadership.

Comment by John Quillen on August 20, 2015 at 7:34pm


Our governor, the wealthiest politician in the United States, is just outsourcing every facet of the government to his crony friends.  But what can you expect from an oil billionaire whose first act as governor was to institute a rule barring his finances from being disclosed to the public.

This is how he pays them back.

Some of you have written the state parks director and shared you response privately.  I have yet to hear back from the guy.  But he did receive an earful, I can assure. Good for those of you who let your voice be heard.  The State parks director,  Mike Robertson, actually had the nerve to say in one correspondence that the fee was an attempt to "reduce the burden on taxpaying citizens"   Really?  Only a bureaucrat can talk like that.  Give em hell, folks.  It may not change but let them know you see through their BS.  Here is the email link again.

Comment by Dustin M on August 18, 2015 at 2:34pm

This is what happens when people vote party lines. Republicans are out to privatize and exploit every resource we have. Look at the Koch brothers and their land grabs. I like how Trump made that statement how all the other Republicans were controlled by big donors like him. On the flip side he's also admitting that the reason they are so angry with the sitting President is because he cannot be controlled by big him. Haslam is clearly under control as this is not a move the public has been pushing. There are plenty of real issues that the public wants, but privatization of our Parks is not one of them. 

Comment by John Quillen on August 18, 2015 at 1:46pm

Of course, this explains a lot of it.  

As part of that effort, a small group of major national vendors, including Aramark and Delaware North, are making site visits at several Tennessee State Parks across the state whose retail operations the Haslam administration is proposing to outsource, including inns, cabins, campgrounds, restaurants, marinas and golf courses

Comment by John Quillen on August 18, 2015 at 11:47am

I just got off the phone with George Shinn, managing director of S. Cumberland.  Several interesting points.  Shinn is managing director of S. Cumberland because his predecessor took a leave due to disagreeing with the charging of backcountry fees.

I outlined our history with the Smokies fee and expressed my concerns about the lack of civic engagement of which I was personally totally unaware.  We spoke for 30 minutes and he emphasized that they are the guinea pig for backcountry fees since they have seen an uptick in backcountry camping in the last two years.  I told him that was likely the result of the fee in the Smokies driving people to state parks. He was also unaware that the TN State Legislature passed a resolution condemning the backcountry fee in the Smokies, he had no idea.  I intend to contact the commissioner of TN State Parks and here is his email, I would encourage others to do the same and share your correspondence here.

Comment by John Quillen on August 17, 2015 at 9:31pm

Amen Gregg,

On another note, looks like the state of Tn is following the NPS lead by attempting to charge a backcountry camping fee at Fiery Gizzard.  And to think I had been bragging about that setup down there after Joey and I went climbing and backpacking a few years ago.  Sounds like its time for them to hear from SFW.

Comment by Gregg Bostick on August 15, 2015 at 1:01am

Well, glad to see that he finally made his way up to the cash cow that the cove has become.  The new concessionaire running the store up there is setting records for sales volume.  Good the little people who aren't on the payroll got thrown a bone.....the more volunteers, the less for paid employees to do.

Can you imagine the KNS article that would have appeared had the handle bars fallen off on a downhill ride and gravel become imbedded?  I can just see the headline now from Morgan Simmons:"GSMNP Superintendent Rescued".

The article would read:

"Due to massive over crowding in the Cades Cover area, Supt. Cash attempted to maneuver his bicycle around Tourons from OH, MI, and FL as they had stopped all traffic because they evidently do not have horses, deer, or turkeys in those states, and folks were taking pictures to populate their facebook, twitter, and insagram feeds.

Fortunately, there was a helicopter available from a Mt. LeConte toilet paper re-supply run that was able to assist in the recovery.  Supt. Cash was flown to the closest Sevier County medical facility that cow tows to the NPS and he was released.

The cost of the extraction is not disclosed, just like the revenue that has been generated by the backcountry fee, per park policy"

What a shame and sad statement this is email is.....

Comment by John Quillen on August 13, 2015 at 11:18am

           Incognito Cash:

------ Forwarded message ----------
From: Cash, Cassius <>
Date: Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 9:44 AM
Subject: Cades Cove
To: "" <>

Dana and I went out yesterday, with the hopes of being incognito, to Cades Cove to experience (my first time) the very popular bike-ride loop yesterday. As far as being incognito--no luck! :) Anyway, I must say looking at those beautiful vistas on bike--met the hype. I get it now!

What was even more grand to see where our volunteers in action. I got see first-hand the professionalism and service our volunteers provide to thousands of visitors everyday. For example, I noticed that my handle bars became extremely loose and just when I was just about to declare my bike ride into a "walk" around the loop--several sharp-looking volunteers coasted down the hill to my rescue with tool-kits and saved the day! I also received some help from a mowing operator earlier as well who was very helpful and kind. Yes...I know; I was a needy superintendent yesterday!!

We also had the opportunity to watch Bike Volunteer Yvonne spring into action to aid a young rider in need! His parents were so appreciative, not for the band-aid, but for the expert manner in which Yvonne treated the young man by calming him with stories and giving him the courage to finish the ride.

Each of the volunteers, from those picking up litter to those helping on bikes to those directing traffic, represented the very best of the park service yesterday; and Dana and I were very proud and pleased to see (and experience) their invaluable service up close and personal. Take a look...

In appreciation,


Cassius M. Cash
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Rd
865-436-1201 (work)

Sheridan Roberts, Volunteer Coordinator
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Comment by John Quillen on July 30, 2015 at 10:55am

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."

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