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 November 3, 2015 at 2:33pm

Think you will EVER see this happen in the Smokies?  

Horse Use Limited in Klondike NP

Comment by John Quillen on October 30, 2015 at 10:58am

This is super important.  Please consider sending in an email comment. It costs nothing.  It is critical for the future of the Smokies and all public lands. Kitty and the Western Slope No fee coalition have alerted us.   It will allow concessionaires like Vesna and REI even more power over public lands.  Thanks

A hearing was held yesterday morning in the House Natural Resources Committee on a draft bill to revise federal recreation fee authority. Much like the bill introduced last session but never enacted, this bill would allow fees to be charged everywhere to anyone doing anything.
But even worse than last year's bill, the current one would require the agencies to privatize even more publicly owned facilities through expanded use of concessionaires, and even to sell them outright into private ownership.
This bill is the wrong direction for federal public lands.
The hearing record is open for public written testimony until November 6. Please take a few moments to share your thoughts with the Committee members and urge them not to enact this bill.  

Representative Tom McClintock, Chair
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands 
Washington, D.C. 20515

Representative Niki Tsongas, Ranking Member
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands 
Washington, D.C. 20515

Comment by John Quillen on October 23, 2015 at 10:05am

Mark Cooke has been keeping daily stats of backcountry camping for about a year now.  And what he has observed is that the actual numbers at campsites do no correlate with personal experiences, including my own.  I have spent a considerable amt of time in the Smokies the past two months and can say that the reservation site numbers do not match the actual numbers in the backcountry at all.  I can't tell you how many times I have arrived at a campsite or shelter only to find it virtually empty when the b/c reservation site shows it full.   But look what the NPS is putting out today!  Unmitigated and unchallenged BS.  Not one media outlet would ever challenge the NPS on their numbers, they just take it as gospel.

Overall, overnight camping in the frontcountry is up 8.7 percent in...

Comment by Mike Thorpe on October 10, 2015 at 12:07pm

Who would have guessed that the "Park Service" would do this same sort of stuff...favoring the "elite", out West? :)

Comment by Jim Casada on October 10, 2015 at 10:17am

John--As anyone who has paid even a tad of attention knows, this whole thing is a monumental, ongoing, dysfunctional screw-up.I find it interesting that someone in the backcountry office actually admitted to non-delivery of the permit by e-mail. I simply don't see how you could be ticketed for not having a permit when you paid (something you could prove) and you have an admission that this is a regular problem.

The ability of bureaucrats to mess things up is matching only by their greed for our dollars.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on October 10, 2015 at 10:10am

Paid for two backcountry permits for tonight and monday and tuesday and never received the actual permit in the email.  Called the b/c office and they told me that this frequently happens due to a glitch in the permit system.  So if I am in the backcountry without a permit, I can get a ticket for not having a permit that the NPS screwed up because they were "updating" their system.  I would like to outdate their system permanently.  Thank God we traded a walk up, self registration system for this and hired several people to screw it up even more.

Comment by Mike Thorpe on October 6, 2015 at 12:05pm

I completely agree Jim!

Comment by Jim Casada on October 6, 2015 at 11:54am

Mike--I read the post and the replies and if, as I understand it, he had two droppers he was in violation (I think it's a questionable law but it is the regulation). I don't know the ins and outs of "frisking" but on a personal basis I would have bluntly asked if I was under arrest before permitting this. 

One thing is clear--the ranger should have been reported for his behavior forthwith. On the other hand, he could have written the guy a ticket so perhaps he gave him a break in that regard.

Jim Casada

Comment by Mike Thorpe on October 6, 2015 at 11:51am

Jim and Others, the fellow was fishing a rig with two droppers under a dry, supposedly illegal? I commonly fish a dry / dropper rig myself. But this Ranger, his described attitude and conduct seems to epitomize the same power hungry and abuse of power attitude we are seeing with the "Fee/tax" situation. I would think putting his hands on this guy might constitute illegal search?

Comment by Jim Casada on October 6, 2015 at 11:30am

Mike--It sounds like some ranger flat-out made an ass of himself and, on top of that, doesn't even know the regulations. Many of the best fishermen I know use a dry fly and a dropper approach (I use it almost exclusively). I guess I'm fortunate that I wasn't the party he approached because I'm sure I would have been unable to stay pleasant and a verbal tirade would have ensued along with an invitation to the effect of "Let's go to Park headquarters and have someone set you straight on the regulations."

I'm actually all for a greater presence in terms of checking anglers (there's a lot of poaching going on), but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. This ranger did everything wrong.


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