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 on January 8, 2015 at 1:54pm

I can hear the response now--"But, But . . . it's the middle of the week and off-season. You don't understand, normally we are swamped."

That is pure, unmitigated, lying through the teeth, out the anal passage bovine matter of the worst sort. As any backcountry fisherman, backpacker, serious hiker, or wanderer, and they will tell you tales, no matter what the season, of empty campsites.

My brother does a great deal of hiking, both on-trail and off, and long before this whole fee debacle emerged he was regularly commenting on the dearth of campers.s I don't get into the backcountry like I once did, but I can't tell you how many scores of times I've walked by the various Deep Creek campsites and found them completely empty in months (May-Sept.) when you would think as per NPS spokespersons, they were full to overflowing.

Jim Casada

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on January 8, 2015 at 1:44pm

Here is evidence refuting the NPS claim of  "overcrowded backcountry"  

Park officials say they did have about 20 people with permits to camp Wednesday night. A few of them changed their plans but many appeared to be sticking with it.

20 people in the Smokies backcountry.  I got news for the NPS, it doesn't take cold temperatures to run people out of the backcountry.  I've been backpacking for years in the winter and NO ONE is in the backcountry.  We are paying for a quarter million dollar reservation system for half a million acres of public land and there are 20 people in the backcountry.

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 7, 2015 at 10:29am

Of course their response will be that there is no way to tell where the wood came from. They are not going to believe us "rabble" when we say we cut it locally.

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 7, 2015 at 10:26am

That is a very good point, Adam.

Comment by Adam Beal on January 7, 2015 at 10:25am

Maybe I can understand a "quarantine" from out of state or distant places but if one has firewood from a tree you cleared in Sevier County, which is now forbidden, this does seem ridiculous and a pretty obvious money/control move. Really it's another tax on locals since people from Ohio are probably going to be buying firewood here anyway only locals would usually bring their own in.

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 7, 2015 at 10:21am

Don't give them any ideas, Jim.

Comment by Jim Casada on January 7, 2015 at 10:18am

This is environmental idiocy carried to the ultimate degree of absurdity. 

Wait, I'll retract the suggestion that this is unsurpassed absurdity, because there may be a regulation in the works requiring pre-approved urine, specially treated and analyzed in a lab and sold solely by approved pee concessionaires in specially designed piss pots, for sale to anyone interested in indulging in the time-honored mountain practice of pissing on the fire to put it out.

Jim Casada

Comment by Myers Morton on January 7, 2015 at 10:13am

Absurd it is.

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 7, 2015 at 9:59am

 Heat-treated firewood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park.

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 7, 2015 at 9:58am

I'm all for keeping out invasive pests, but this is just funneling money to their cronies.

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