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 January 21, 2016 at 9:40pm


Based on my conversation with Mark Cooke this afternoon, I think we can rest assured that the NPS has flat out lied, AGAIN, about their backcountry numbers.  And when I say lied, I mean in a big way.  Mark has them dead to rights on his bookkeeping and I'm not talking about a few dozen here or there.  SFW will be discussing how best to proceed but rest assured, this is a bombshell with ramifications for the entire system.  If you will remember, at the outset of this feeasco, their initial lie was the backcountry overcrowding and we refuted that and forced them to switch to another argument.  It seems as if Cash and crew are resorting to an old, tried and true NPS falsehood to cry for more money.  They are numbers fudgers and we now have solid data to prove it.  We will struggle to find a media outlet willing to take this one, but already have one on the line and I have plans for another.  We could photograph the Superintendent throwing a butt chugging party with teenaged schoolgirls and the News Sentinel wouldn't cover it but there are media outlets that still retain some integrity and those are what we will hit.

FOIA's are good for certain things.  Reconciliation of monies is one.  And while Nero fiddles over at Sugarlands sipping wine on Leconte with Blackberry and planning his token backcountry hikes, we mere serfs are gonna deliver a proletariat surprise.  We may "eat cake" but it will be sweet.

Comment by Dan G on January 21, 2016 at 5:18pm


Shenanigans with the revenue numbers in a FOIA request is a possibility, however, such a request might still be productive if the actual site usage details are also requested.  If I suspect that someone is lying to me, I find it useful to force the person to prop up their story with more information.  Truth and falsehoods both tend to out themselves in this manner;  either the claim starts to come together and make sense or it become more outrageous and verifiably false.

If the NPS is telling the truth and backcountry numbers have inexplicably skyrocketed to historically unseen levels just when the NPS desperately needed them to skyrocket, then good on them.  If, on the other hand, it's a bald-faced lie, then shame on them.

Get the usage details along with the revenue numbers.  We have feet and we have eyes.  If shenanigans it be, eventually we'll see the "ghost campers" with our own eyes.  Actually, we've seen this already and there's no reason to let up on this accounting, but rather very good reasons to turn up the heat.

Comment by John Quillen on January 21, 2016 at 9:21am

It is second hand information.  I have the name of the guy who witnessed it but nothing more.

He was staying at the shelter.  He went to the lodge and the winter caretaker asked him to join them for a meal.  Inside was a large group for whom they were cooking.  The guy asked what group they were and they answered that they were from Blackberry Farm.   It is the kind of thing that I am sure can be easily denied.  My first thought was to contact Leconte directly and see if it was open to private groups in the winter.

Comment by Jim Casada on January 21, 2016 at 9:15am

John--Do you have verifiable evidence that Blackberry Farms is indeed using the Lodge? If so, I don't think an FOIA is needed; just documentation that it is happening.

Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on January 21, 2016 at 9:02am

I'm sure the NPS would juggle the FOIA numbers to equate precisely with the alleged uptick in visitation.  My next FOIA will probably be to ask the NPS why they are allowing Blackberry Farms to use Leconte Lodge in the winter when it is closed to the rest of the serfdom.  We know the answer to that, but I would love to hear Ca$$iu$ Ca$h have to spit out from his own mouth.

Comment by Dan G on January 20, 2016 at 8:53pm

97,629 person nights in the backcountry for 2015?  This should correspond to $390,516 in fees collected.

What next, an FOIA request on the amount collected to provide a much needed sanity/shenanigans check for this number?

Comment by Myers Morton on January 20, 2016 at 10:23am

Nobody is questioning them.

They're a bunch of drones.

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 20, 2016 at 6:09am
Unbelievable! Didn't really cite any figures or state how much money was made by the fee. Very curious.
Comment by John Quillen on January 19, 2016 at 10:56pm

Backcountry stays are up in the Smokies?  Bull #$%&

Comment by Rob Cameron on January 15, 2016 at 6:29pm

We are indeed poor substitutes for the famous Mr. Casada.  I think our response to the next to last post, that somehow brought Jesus into the discussion, should be that Jesus got violently angry when he came upon the money changers defiling His Father's temple. The Park is our temple and we are sickened at the crass, crony commercialism being practiced by the NPS.

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