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 6, 2012 at 9:35am

Nancy Gray's replacement is chosen.  I suppose she will get a crash course on fee indoctrination.  I fully expect to hear the "when I was in Grand Canyon, we had fees for everything, you guys need fees too."  public relations blitz.

Comment by Mike Maples on January 5, 2012 at 9:16pm

You can always find WASTE in our GOV on the Friday signing of Bills. Obama plans on spending 1.6 Billion on 115,000 non-paying volunteer JOBS announced today. He says that this will lower unemployment with new paying jobs in the future.

I don't think folks who get 99 weeks of unemployment are going to sign up and work for free.

Comment by John Quillen on January 5, 2012 at 7:54pm

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The 15th and final backcountry shelter has been renovated in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Work by a volunteer crew wrapped up in early December on the Laurel Gap shelter. The 15 were done through labor and funding from Friends of the Smokies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club.

this is from the Palm Beach Post last year. palm beach post

Isn't it so coincidental that he waited until that vounteer work was completed to float this turd in the punchbowl? Just a reminder to Ditz and Fitz who provided these places from which he seeks to generate revenue.

Comment by L. Perry Fuqua on January 4, 2012 at 2:43pm

Same old story, same old song, it goes all right then it goes all wrong ... the NPS was all right (in the beginning when NPS got started), now they are all wrong (as evidenced by their imposing fees in National Parks, National Forests and who knows where next)

It's a ripoff if it passes!  Horses?  F them, and I'm a horse person ... I love horses, and I can ride, but horses have no place in the Smokies if you ask me (which nobody at GSMNP did, and why would they ask anyone about horses doing damage on hiking trails) ... LeConte? ... Why are they there if not to entice and make money at the expense of nature? ... Mr. Ditmanson? ... SCAPEGOAT at best ... I don't think this FEEASCO was his idea in the first place ... I think he is just a mouthpiece for the "higher-ups" who engineered the plan, and maybe they were just testing the waters to see if the water would boil.

Please do not forget that the Western Slope No Fee Coalition battled this BS before we did and it pretty much got them nowhere: Western Slope No Fee Coalition

Does not mean we can't get their (NPS, USDI, Washington DC) attention, because we are fighting the GOOD fight ... fighting for human (and backcountry camping) rights!!!  For one meager voice in this battle of wits I can hardly wait to see the response from GSMNP after the comments are finally made public.  Personally, I hope it is like broken eggs in their collective NPS/USDI faces!  Yes, I do not ever expect to be employed by the NPS or USDI in general.  And like Groucho once said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."

So there you have it!  Cheesy Gov'ment taxing Po campers to pay the salaries of nonexistent "rangers" ... and the slide (or should I say avalanche) continues to grow bigger if we let it.

Comment by Adam Beal on January 4, 2012 at 2:13pm

Good point John we heard that from Ron over on gosmokies a lot the whole "its just a few dollars" argument. Pretty much standard for folks who use emotion over logic.

Comment by Joey Bridges on January 4, 2012 at 7:32am

pretty much backs up our assertions that once an absurd fee is in place, there's no place for it to go but up.

Comment by John Quillen on January 3, 2012 at 7:58pm


To my knowledge, all the frontcountry in the Smokies is pay only.  The national forests appear to be discretionary.

I was interested in how the fees increased over a short period of time.  I get so tired of hearing people say, "Whats a few dollars to help the park?"  Also, your statement reinforces what the Western Slope No Fee folks are saying.  The implementation of fees in the National Forests is arbitrary.

I would rather see a family frontcountry camp at Abram's Creek and dayhike out to a backcountry site, than not to camp at all.   Cades Cove is a different story.

Comment by Jim Casada on January 3, 2012 at 6:32pm

John--Of course there are also plenty of frontcountry campgrounds or camping spots in those national forests which are free.  Just to take one example of a place I've camped, there are a number of attractive sites, with picnic tables, lantern hangs, etc. along Big Snowbird as one drives up to the turnaround at the Junction.  Not ideal for me in terms of isolation, but when you have donated a trip to a Trout Unlimited or Federation of Fly Fishers chapter and have folks who aren't up to hikes of any length, it's pretty nice.


Jim Casada

Comment by John Quillen on January 3, 2012 at 6:25pm

I should add that those campgrounds outlined below are frontcountry with toilets and other facilities.

Comment by John Quillen on January 3, 2012 at 4:53pm

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