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 March 10, 2015 at 8:06pm

Got another round of stuff from the NPS via FOIA today.

It has Leconte Lodge and Riding Stable information.  Here is the link:

For those who have been around here a while you know that the Leconte Lodge folks were pushing the backcountry tax.  When I see how much Leconte makes off the backs of this National Park, I can see how it pays to promote unpopular schemes through deception. (Then they get the GSMA to do promotional videos for them, don't the dots line up nicely?) They teamed up with a local guide service  to educate us about all the resource degradation and rampant overcrowding in the backcountry.  (Please note that said guide service has no local ties just as said GSMA promoters for Leconte have no local ties and most all of the NPS people they were courting are long gone back to their holes far away.)

 The disingenuous and dollar crazed guide even went so far as to quote long gone rangers and fabricated research to push these claims.  One of my favorite moments from the sham meeting Frank forced upon the Supt and his cronies at Sugarlands (notably absent from the admin record, I might add) was when Fitz (aka Kevin Fitzgerald) stopped us and let it leak that the husband of said guide was in his office frequently. 

                       It is a cozy nest of moneychangers.

Comment by Dustin M on March 6, 2015 at 7:12pm

Great Video!

Comment by John Quillen on March 6, 2015 at 6:59pm

Myers has filed what we hope will be the final coffin nail in the fee fight.  In honor of this event, I am reposting this video so brilliantly edited and compiled for SFW to remind ourselves why we started and continue this fight daily.

Comment by John Quillen on March 5, 2015 at 3:56pm

Tired of fee rhetoric?  Like a primer on the timeline of fee implementation?  Kitty has done an outstanding job laying it out here with a sample fee legislation composed by our allies at Western Slope No Fee Coalition.  She has helped us tremendously.  She testifies before congress because she is the expert.  OUR expert.

Secretaries shall not charge a fee pursuant to this or any other Act for any permit
issued for private, noncommercial recreational use of wilderness or other
backcountry or dispersed areas. The Secretaries may establish a system of free
backcountry permits, limited in number and issued per party, and subject to other
terms and conditions as may be required to equitably manage visitor use and
provide for resource protection. Such permits shall only be required where
necessary to meet the requirements of the Wilderness Act or where special
management is necessary due to demand in excess of resource capacity.

This is direct language from Kittys well thought out proposal.  If you are a constituent of John Duncan, how about sending him your thoughts on this or sending him that link?  Here is his email address:

I have been in contact with his chief of staff over this upcoming legislation.  We need to help Kitty and ourselves by getting in advance of this stuff before someone bends his ear like Bishop did previously.

Comment by Myers Morton on March 4, 2015 at 9:11am

Thanks John.

There is supposed to be more information coming later.

Everybody dig when you can.

Comment by John Quillen on March 3, 2015 at 10:32pm

I have uploaded all the FOIA info and campsite data.  You should be able to access it here.

Comment by John Quillen on March 3, 2015 at 4:13pm


Those $160 charges are not for guided groups.  The guided groups are separated.  This is for a regular party of people which makes this thing ever more suspect in my head.  And because the personal information is redacted, we will never be told who these people actually are. Except they are not people.  They are NPS "ghosts". Just like the 10 million "ghost" visitors to the park annually that are actually thru traffic from Cherokee to go kart land.

Comment by Jim Casada on March 3, 2015 at 4:09pm

John--How can there be 10 of them if party numbers are limited to eight? Or maybe that only applies to the common folks, not the elites paying high-dollar fees. I always thought the limit of eight INCLUDED guides. Perhaps I'm wrong and there are eight paying customers and two guides for four nights. That would give you the $160 figure but not compliance with regulations as I understand them.


Comment by John Quillen on March 3, 2015 at 4:01pm

I don't believe those $160 dollar charges.  There are waaay too many of them to reconcile in my mind.  I think that is some numbers padding.  I've never in my life seen a party of 8 out for that many nights in all my years in the backcountry. And that sheet below says there were 10 of them?  No way.  Something is fishy with the numbers.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on March 3, 2015 at 3:41pm

You're right, Dan, about Pretty Hollow Gap. I've also done illegal campfire rehab there more times than I care to recall. Your "point of pride" is well taken and very much appreciated.

My efforts are mostly elsewhere now. As I said before I'm no longer comfortable assisting the agency and helping improve their "volunteer statistics." But for the same reason -- knowing the corrupt methods they used in pulling this whole thing off -- my "unofficial" offering to the land within the park boundaries is also greatly reduced because, quite simply, I'm not paying that administration to backpack. In my view what they've done amounts to sacrilege, so I backpack and pay a "service tithe" elsewhere. To see, as John points out, $160 charges makes me sick. So that's a party of 8 out for 5 nights being charged $30 more than it would cost them to stay at Cosby's frontcountry GROUP campsite or Elkmont's smaller GROUP campsite. How can anyone justify that?

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