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 Friday

Consider this as we await the 6th circuit decision of our appeal.

Comment by John Quillen on September 21, 2015 at 2:56pm

Yes Jim,

And it is FLREA that gives them the ability to do these things.  Unheard of prior to the infamous fee demo program, Lamar and his cronies in their never ending quest to set their legacies give the NPS and FS unlimited discretion.  As was quoted in the book by Cades Cove painter and TN resident   Sins of the NPS in Great Smokies,  our own illustrious John Duncan is quoted as saying that "The NPS can do anything, short of murder and get away with it."   But he seems very content to allow them to get away with it.

Folks here are not.  Which is why I am proud of those who keep the email wires hot with public comments. It was your public comments that lit the rear ends of the NPS in the fee scandal when they try to minimize them. And Myers used that to great advantage in his latest legal retort.  Keep it up people.  What you send it is recorded and we know now how to find and make it count.

Comment by Jim Casada on September 21, 2015 at 2:34pm

I've never utilized that particular area of the Pisgah National Forest, other than to do a bit of driving on a Forest Service road or two nearby, but portions of this seem absolutely ridiculous. The way I read it, you can't even light a Coleman stove to cook a trail lunch, and you better have an official day-by-day list of the times of sunrise and sunset with you or else the law might get you. I have no problem with prohibiting vehicles, although I would hasten to add that bikes do far less damage than horses, but these buffoons seem to me to be regulation crazy as well as money hungry.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on September 21, 2015 at 2:18pm

If you have time to watch Kitty's testimony before the govt last week, here is a link.

 I haven't had the opportunity yet but will sit down later tonight.  She reminded us that we have until the first of october to send in our email comments about what junk FLREA is and how it has impacted public lands users.  That link is somewhere below.

This is a good project to send out on the message boards of gosmokies, AT hiker networks  and other blog type of platforms.  An overwhelming show of public disdain for FLREA will get the attention of elected officials, (outside of Lamar, of course)

Kitty is working FOR US!  Let's help pay her back and stop this crap before we are paying to hike up the Chimneys.  

Comment by John Quillen on September 21, 2015 at 1:52pm

Pisgah National Forest Posts New Restrictions for Big Creek / Waterville Area

The following is prohibited within the Big Creek/Waterville area on the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. This area that is approximately one-quarter mile south of Walter’s Power Plant, between Big Creek and State Road 1332 (along the northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park): 

1. Camping is prohibited unless it is in an authorized area. 

2. No alcoholic beverages. 

3. Follow horse riding rules and regulations as posted. 

4. Do not build / maintain a campfire or stove fire. 

5. Follow car parking rules and regulations as posted. 

6. Use of bicycle, motorcycle, or motor vehicle of any type is prohibited. 

7. Area is closed at sundown and opens again at sunrise. 
Comment by John Quillen on September 16, 2015 at 4:03pm

A very important hearing is coming up tomorrow before the Senate Natural Resources committee tomorrow and our good friend, Kitty Benzar is testifying against the piece of garbage law that allowed the backcountry fee.  It is known as FLREA and if it is allowed to continue will provide for the ability to charge to dayhike Leconte, park at trailheads and all manner of bs at the NPS discretion.  Kitty will tell them about fee abuses but they are accepting public email comments.  Please polish off your email comments and send them to this link about your experiences with FLREA vis a vie the backcountry fee or elsewhere on BLM lands etc.

This is important and will have longstanding implications.  Folks like Lamar will tell you it is good for the NPS etc.  And it is.  Things are real good for the NPS if FLREA gets extended.  Voice you opposition to it by sending an email at this link please.

Below is more info about what is going on I have cut and pasted from the Western Slope No Fee Coalition.  Lamar sits on this committee.

After you have sent your statement to the committee, your next step should be to contact both of your Senators and send a copy of it to them using the contact form on their website. You can find the links HERE.

 If you live in Alaska, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Utah, Louisiana, Colorado, Ohio, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Oregon, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maine, or Massachusetts, then you have at least one Senator who represents you that sits on the committee, and that amplifies your voice. If you live in West Virginia you have two!

The complete committee member list can be found HERE. If your Senator is among them, please take a moment to call their office today and urge them to attend this important hearing. Let them know how important federal public lands are to you. All the contact information is easy to find at the Senate website HERE.
The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition is a broad-based organization consisting of diverse interests including hiking, biking, boating, equestrian and motorized enthusiasts, community groups, local and state elected officials, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, and just plain citizens.
Our goals are:
  • To eliminate recreation fees for general access to public lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
  • To eliminate backcountry fees and interpretive program fees in National Parks
  • To require more accountability within the land management agencies
  • To encourage Congress to adequately fund our public lands 
Comment by Tim Fell on September 11, 2015 at 12:24am
Hey John, I usually keep up reading every so often, but the South Cumberland thing kinda snuck up on me/us.

To follow up, at South Cumberland, they're not just charging for Hobbs Cabin; Truck Stop Willy has decided to charge us for every tick, chigger and and Poison Ivy vine.

Other than Hobbs Cabin, there are all the tent campsites at Hobbs and places like the Sawmill and The Stagecoach.

Those are $6.43/night.

That's $3 for the reservation.

Plus $3 for the "reservation fee".

Then $.43 and State and local taxes, which breaks down as follows

A 5% Occupancy Tax, $.15
A 2.25% Local Tax, $.07
A 7% State Tax, $.21

Additionally, I tried making a multi-night reservation.

I was hoping that there would be one "Reservation Fee" for the entire transaction; in other words, one $3 "Reservation Fee" for a multi night reservation.

No, that's not the way it works; The Lot Lizard Pimp Willy is charging the "Reservation Fee" per campsite/per night.

Finally, The Federally Convicted Gasoline Price Fixer, Willy; charges a "Printer Tax".

A copy of your online receipt "must" be displayed on vehicle's dashboard.

I wonder how much of a kickback, Tax and Spend Willy is getting from increased printer sales in the State?

Furthermore, there are various Group Campsite reservations ranging from $15 to $39.

Of course these are subject to a per night/per campsite "Reservation Fee" of $3 in addition to various State, Local and Occupancy Taxes.

I'll admit, I don't know who my new State Reps are since I've moved to Grainger Co, but you can be assured they will be hearing from me soon. Of course they're a part time legislature and they're not even is session for another 7-8 mos.

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for
If you don't want to pay some more
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me.
Comment by John Quillen on September 10, 2015 at 9:07pm

This is a link to the response SFW is filing today.  It is a great argument and counter to the NPS 25 pages of drivel wherein they justify failing to comply with their own rules.  Myers nails them to the wall in this one.

Comment by John Quillen on September 10, 2015 at 11:41am

Good to hear from you Tim.  I hope you take the time to let the Tn State Parks Commissioner know your feelings.  We certainly did and are.

I want to let everyone here know that Myers and the board are finishing the most recent retort to the federal governments bs through the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnatti.  I personally read Myers response and feel as if he has nailed them to the wall.  I realize that many folks are resigned to the fee but this forum here is the exception.  After returning from three days in the backcountry last weekend and reconciling my personal experience of empty campsites with Mark Cooke's daily tallies of actual use over in Cataloochee, I am more bolstered than ever in our resolve to prove that the NPS is monkeying with the system and fudging numbers of actual backcountry usage.  This lawsuit is a vehicle through which to show these desk jockeys for the manipulators we know them to be.

It aint over yet.

Comment by Tim Fell on September 6, 2015 at 9:55am
Been away for a while, and the only polite thing I can say is...


On the South Cumberland backcountry fee.

I just checked the price for a night at Hobbs Cabin, a favorite Mid-Winter getaway.


$20 reservation

$3 reservation fee--to pay for the reservation

And get this:

State and Local Taxes $2.85

Broken down as follows:

Occupancy Tax, 5.0%, $1.00

Local Tax, 2.25%, $.45

State Tax, 7.0%, $1.40

Talk about getting nickled and dimed to death.

All I got to say is, if I pony up $25.85, and reserve the cabin

And someone else tries to come into the cabin that night

They're not coming in, and I'll use whatever means to keep them from coming in.

After all, I've paid for the privilege of privacy.

In the past, staying at Hobbs, more than one party could use the cabin until it was full.

Now, anyone can pay $25.85 to EXCLUDE others from the opportunity to stay at the cabin.

Wow, just wow!!!

I'm getting older now; with work, age and a new farm to maintain, backpacking isn't as easy for me as it used to be.

I used to backpack a lot as it was a lot cheaper than some my other favorite outdoor activities.

$26 will buy a heck of a lot of gas for my Bass Boat, or an afternoon's worth of ammo at the range.

I don't expect I will be spending too many nights in the woods in the future.

I NEVER imagined I would be priced out of the backpacking game.

Backpacking...been nice knowin' ya'.

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