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 May 3, 2022 at 6:35pm

100% Erik.  I think "fee fatigue" has so many people throwing up their hands, they won't even bother to comment. But, we intend to FOIA the results, so all your thoughts will be critical when we present them to the media, who will probably find someone else to present talking points for the NPS, like Lamar did.  By the way, the NPS is sitting on multiple FOIA requests that Southern Forest Watch has submitted and they are well over deadline on responding to them, after trying to charge us an arm and a leg to get the information.  It's good to be kings and queens with no oversight.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on May 3, 2022 at 6:19pm

Should anyone want to share their thoughts on the latest proposal for a 100% increase in the backpacker's tax, escalated frontcountry campground fees, and parking fees for every "designated" parking space in the park, the comment period is open through Saturday (5/7/22). Their clock is on Mountain Time, so the NPS will supposedly accept submissions up till 2 A.M. Sunday (5/8) morning. 

While the virtual meeting made it plainly evident that the NPS couldn't care less about public input, I would encourage folks to submit comments. They shouldn't get a free pass to proceed with their plans due to the public adopting a defeatist mentality. Besides, venting lowers blood pressure.

Comment by Andrew Sisson on April 26, 2022 at 6:25pm

Your comments were successfully submitted at
April 26, 2022 04:24 PM Mountain Time
Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Project: Proposed Smokies Fee Program Changes for 2023
Document: Proposed Smokies Fee Program Changes for 2023
Name: Andrew J Sisson
Address: 2537 Zachary Woods DR NW
City: Marietta
State: GA
Postal Code: 30064
Organization:AMAV Studio
Keep My
Topic Question 1: None. I do not agree with parking tags at all.
Comments: Topic Question 2: No fee is acceptable to me to park in the GSMNP.
Comments: Topic Question 3: No fee for parking. I am a veteran and have an annual
America the Beautiful pass which is free and I use that to park at my nearest park,
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. I would expect to use the same pass and
pay no fee.
Comments: Topic Question 4: No fees. I do NOT agree with the backcountry fee
increase. I also did NOT agree with the initial backcountry fee that was implemented
10 years ago.
Comments: Topic Question 5: I do NOT agree with additional increase in the
frontcountry fees.
Comments: I attended the on-line seminar held by the GSMNP and Superintendent
Cash in the middle of April. I posted many comments and expressed my opposition
to the additional fees and new fees. 10 years ago Superintendent Ditmanson and the
GSMNP asked for feedback and I gave it then in opposition. I personally know many
others who share my same view opposing these fees. Our National Parks are meant
for all the people to recreate in and enjoy. They are NOT a 'college campus' in
relation to park fees. They are not amusement parks, or resorts. I am displeased with
the rational the GSMNP is using to persuade the general public on justification for
higher fees and more fees. I seem to remember a stat that most of the visitors to the
GSMNP never get more than a few feet away from their vehicles while visiting this
park and possibly all of the National Parks. Why do these visitors get to visit this
park and pay nothing, while hard working Americans are being forced to pay high
fees to enjoy the park which we have also contributed to with our hard earned tax
Comment ID: 2197430-119753/2118

Comment by John Quillen on April 26, 2022 at 3:06pm

Public comment period is extended to May 1. Please make your voices known so we can FOIA the results.

Comment by John Quillen on April 18, 2022 at 9:49am

Also, no concession for locals, unless you are a Cherokee, then they get a "pass'.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on April 17, 2022 at 12:50am

The NPS certainly has utilized COVID to – even more than usual – do as it pleases. That so-called meeting was nothing but a PR stunt. If you’ve read the press releases and the park website FAQ you already knew how they'd answer every “question” they addressed. Absolutely no new insight nor clarification on the assertions/comparisons being made by park administrators.

When experience teaches that public comments will have no bearing on the NPS decision, it’s especially frustrating and disgraceful that unelected bureaucrats can levy taxes without having to face the public that pays their salaries.

There should be multiple, in-person meetings as there were for the North Shore Road issue.  

Comment by John Quillen on April 14, 2022 at 10:26am

Thieves is right.  This afternoon they are doing a virtual meeting if anyone wants to log on and comment. We have a person, Seth, who is going on to make his concerns know, provided they give him an opportunity. Here is a link for those of you who may want to join.

Comment by Mike Thorpe on April 11, 2022 at 5:03pm

Bunch of thieves, so glad you guys continue to expose and resist their efforts 

Comment by Jo Neuspickel on April 8, 2022 at 7:49am

From what I have read they will not be enforcing this! They also know that it will NOT help with the parking problems that already exist! To me it is just another way to get money from those of us that visit the park! I have read sooo many people say that they are good with this fee and they know it will help with the parking problems through out the park. How is it going to help if they are not going to enforce it??????? Smoke and mirrors to me!! 

Comment by John Quillen on April 7, 2022 at 8:32pm

These morons that are cool with a 5 dollar parking fee now need to be reminded that our four dollar backpacking fee has doubled in ten years.  So ask them if they are cool with twenty dollars in two decades to pull off and hike up to the Chimneys.  And remind them that Cash gave no consideration to locals for a pass (eg the descendants of those who forfeited this land)

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