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 Dan G 3 hours ago

That Judge Phillips strayed from legal decision to say:

This, then, is the crux of the issue:  NPS released the BCF proposal to the public for input, received and reviewed that input, acknowledging that much of it was negative, and then decided to implement the BCF anyway by concluding that the benefits of the plan outweighed the concerns.  The plaintiffs and those opposed to the BCF are understandably disappointed in this decision and could easily assume that defendants did not truly consider the public comments. After all, if so much of the public response was negative, how could the defendants have considered that input and still decided to proceed with the BCF?  Indeed, the passionate opposition to the BCF leads a reasonable mind to question whether another conclusion should have been reached, or why the Park management placed such emphasis on benefits for the “less represented stakeholder group” rather than benefits for the frequent, local Park visitors.   The legal question for this Court, however, is whether that decision was arbitrary or capricious. (emphasis added)

I've read a good number of decisions, and this is about as close to an injection of a judge's personal opinion as we're likely to see in such decisions.  That the fee decision was contrived, written, presented, and pushed through unchanged and without compromise on many reasonable suggestions to mitigate the most onerous and non-considerate aspects of the plan... It is as close as we'll get to a judge saying, "Yes, they shoved this whole thing down your throats and they didn't give the tiniest damn about any consideration outside of their predetermined course."  That the NPS managed to step over a legal bar set very low indeed, well, Ditmanson and company should not be high-fiving, but they should be ashamed.  Unfortunately, at the decision-making levels of the NPS, shame has long ago been bred-out.

Comment by steve george 6 hours ago

This struggle at its essence was to push back against tyranny.  Our opposition was less about the fee than it was about the deceit woven into proposal.  The implementation and roll out seemed to follow a previously scripted and proven method to enact a policy upon the citizens without consent of the people.

It has become crystal clear to those with a historical perspective and a keen awareness of current events that the people are loosing ground at every turn.  It was my pleasure and honor to be associated with a group of citizens with the passion and intelligence to, in spite of the odds, said, NO. 

Thank you all.

Comment by Gregg Bostick 8 hours ago

As a named plaintiff in this action, I have deliberately refrained from posting on this wonderful forum, as I am very conservative when it comes to this sort of thing.

That being said, now that the court has ruled on the merits of our lawsuit against the NPS, I must say that not only am I disappointed (albeit not surprised) but I am grieving.  The time, effort, and sacrifice that Myers Morton, (a dear personal friend I introduced to this fight), has cost him immeasurable billable hours for clients who are better able to compensate him for his passionate pursuit to insure that the law is adhered to.

I have met so many wonderful folks through the flawed and "illegal" decision of our former GSMNP leaders!  To know that there are others who are willing to stand up against injustice in whatever forms it may take has been affirming.  What a blessing it is to bond with people who I would have never met.

Don't know where SFW will take this decision, but rest assured that the friendships formed through this FEEASCO will last longer than the days when all valleys shall be filled and every mountain will be made low, (even our beloved Smoky Mountains where my ancestors were forced to leave with what is now shallow/empty promises from a shell if what our founding Fathers believed would be the government by the governed).

Blessing to each of you who read this post, and I pray that this Easter season renews your faith and your hope in the final righteousness of good over evil....


Comment by Jan Cooke 12 hours ago

I am SO very proud of this group and the injustices they have, and continue to bring, to light.  We are much smarter and more aware by the information they have uncovered for us.  I have so many feelings going through me right now that hurt, but as John has so eloquently pointed out, we are only visitors here.  Thank you to all who have stayed the course and fought the good fight.  Hopefully, many eyes have been opened to the boundless corruption. 

Comment by Jo Jackson - Neuspickel 15 hours ago

I am very sorry to hear this news. I wish I could have done more to help but I have also learned alot from this! I will never look at the NPS in quite the same way as I did before! My eyes have been opened to the injustice that is going on not just in the Smokies but other parks as well!

I will keep the stickers on my vehicles, and tell people that ask, what they stand for! (people do ask, here in KY and just this past weekend while we were in the Smokies!!) I still am very proud to be a part of this group and I always will be!! (as long as you will have me!!)

I want to thank everyone that spent their hard earned time & money for this fight!


Comment by John Quillen 18 hours ago
Comment by Andrew Sisson yesterday

I am truly sorry to hear this news.  Thank you very much John, Rob, Gregg and Meyers for standing up and doing what is right.  I have great respect for all of your collective hard work in this long process.  I am glad that I was able to join the fight and wish I could have done more.  

Yes, this battle is over.  However there still is hope with what Kitty Benzar is doing with the Western Slope No fee coalition?  Continue to stand up for our rights.

Thank you John for exposing the injustice which is going on in our GSMNP.  I will never take it for granted.

Comment by Dustin M yesterday

Well, I have learned a lot from all that has taken place. Better to have fought and lost than done nothing like Mike Thorpe said. 

Like John Quillen put it. This is just temporary. I'm looking forward to that everlasting place to come. 

Thanks guys.

Comment by Mike Thorpe yesterday

Why am I not surprised, disappointed, but not surprised. Seems our only hope naturally speaking will be to take back our govt and nation in the polls when we vote! Thanks John, Myers, and each of f you who have supported the cause and stayed the course. I for one would much rather fight and lose than lay down and play dead, thanks for giving us the resource to at least fight and make our voice of protest heard!

Comment by John Quillen yesterday

I don't believe in mincing words or doling out bad news in small measures so I am just going to tell you fine folks with whom I have had the privilege of standing for the past several years that Myers just informed the board that Judge Thomas Phillips has ruled in favor of the National Park Service and our lawsuit contesting the backcountry fee has been shot down.

We were suing the King in the Kings court.     I count our victories in many other ways and this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  Everyone here should take pride in exposing the corrupted system that allows Blackberry Farms and Governor Sundquist and crooked concessionaires rule this public land.  The Bible is clear in that much of this earth belongs to people of the earth.  So we don't store up our treasures in this temporary place.

Hold your heads high, my friends. You fought for more than free ground.  

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