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 L. Perry Fuqua on January 6, 2012 at 11:57am

Hey Joey, months ago in the original blog about the fee proposal I commented on businesses contributing to the park and got negative comments back from people on Go Smokies who make money in the  Gatlinburg community from tourists (tourons).  I even suggested the businesses who make money from the millions of tourists should go to the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville or Sevier County commissions to have a tiny tax or fee imposed upon themselves to help the park out (i.e. fund Rangers for backcountry).  "HaHaHa ...TeeHeeHee" is paraphrasing their responses.  

Comment by Jim Casada on January 6, 2012 at 11:30am

Adam and Joey--Good points on the threatened temporary closures (I had planned to do a fishing trip protest of that when it came close) and those businesses profiting from the Park.  They are, as best I can ascertain, paying a mere pittance.  Equally to the point, what about the environmental damage they are doing. 

Obviously trekking llmas laden with supplies, the whole nature of the Mount LeConte operation, any and all horse traffic, and the mindless hiking hordes led by smarmy profiteers who feign a deep love for the Park do nothing for it (other than in a destructive sense) when it comes to the environment.  I somehow don't think the founders had horse stables and shuttle buses, hiking guides and other concessions, in mind when they created the Park for the people.

Jim Casada

Comment by Joey Bridges on January 6, 2012 at 10:34am

and while we're on the subject businesses of re compensating the mountains that they profit from, what do the businesses that operate guide services, lodge business, pay to profit from our public lands ???

Comment by Joey Bridges on January 6, 2012 at 10:19am

goes back to what i've said before about the glut of retail all around the park, literally whoring out those mountains for their own bottom line.

if anyone owes the land anything in return, it's them.

Comment by John Quillen on January 6, 2012 at 10:07am

We know who the "strange govt puppet" is.  We have all learned about the inactivity of govt through this feeasco.

I posted that quote in the outdoor quotations blog.

I'm leaving for Ouray, Colorado tomorrow to do some ice climbing.  It is free to climb there, all they ask is for a donation to the town's funding of the ice park and the subsequent tourism keeps that town in business year round.  Wouldn't it be great if GSMNP could ask for things instead of tell us what to do and where to pay.

Comment by Adam Beal on January 6, 2012 at 10:07am

Look at how the government constantly hangs "closing the park temporarily" over our heads whenever they have a budget dispute ie government shutdown.

"I hope the use of it will not be confined to people who come hither on Government specified days..."

Comment by Joey Bridges on January 6, 2012 at 9:54am

i agree fully. not just with this issue of the fee, but with our entire federal government as it stands today.

just look at what's going on in D.C. as we speak, or better yet, what's not going on any longer.

they no longer represent the will of the people who sent then there.
that goes for both houses of congress, the executive branch, and political affiliations.

Comment by Jim Casada on January 6, 2012 at 9:44am

All--A good friend and fellow student of Park history shared something with me yesterday which is well worth passing on to everyone.  It is possible John has already posted it elsewhere, since I e-mailed it to him yesterday, but a quick check didn't reveal such to be the case.

The setting is President Franklin D. Roosevelt's visit to Newfound Gap in 1940 for formal dedication of the Park, and these words are taken from his speech on that occasion:

"I hope . . . that one hundred years from now the Great Smoky National Park will still belong in practice, as well as in theory, to the people of a free nation.  I hope it will not belong to them in theory alone and that in practice the ownership of this Park will not be in the hands of some strange kind of Government puppet. . . . I hope the use of it will not be confined to people who come hither on Government specified days and on Government directed tours."

I don't know about others, but two things struck me about this.  First, the "strange kind of Government puppet" may well have taken up residence in Sugarlands.  Second, "specified days" and "directed tours" isn't by any means a long stretch from concessionaire control and Government dictates on who camps and at what cost.

I'm not much of a fan of FDR, and almost certainly a speechwriter crafted these words, but in my view sadly they are all too prescient.  Do others argee?

Jim Casada

Comment by Joey Bridges on January 6, 2012 at 9:43am

she has a pretty extensive resume. i wish her well, and hope she can bring a fresh viewpoint regarding this absurd, unnecessary backcountry camper fee.

but i foresee a case of, "going along to get along" scenario.

pretty much S.O.P. for any federal employee moving up the career ladder.

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.

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