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 April 8, 2021 at 9:33pm

I have a big favor to ask of folks here.

Myers is working on some FOIA requests that will keep the NPS busy on several issues we have been discussing over here.

However, we need money. And instead of begging you for a donation, you can simply designate Southern Forest Watch as your designated charity on amazon smile. A portion of all your purchases will be donated to us at NO extra cost to you. In my personal purchases alone in one month, I generated 12 dollars. It costs $30 per month to keep this platform alive. That is our only expense. Myers works for free. If you could get your family, friends and anyone you know to do this, we are all set. Just go to    and designate Southern Forest Watch. It would assist us greatly in keeping this alive and save me personal money from my pocket.  Thanks so much.


Comment by John Quillen on April 7, 2021 at 7:56am

That's too bad, Jo. I like the RRG. Best climbing on the East Coast there.

Comment by Jo Neuspickel on April 5, 2021 at 3:24pm

From what I have been hearing they are talking about this in Red River Gorge area in Kentucky. They want designated camp spots only. Oh and by reservation I believe! I could be wrong but this talk has been going on social media for a while now.

Comment by John Quillen on April 5, 2021 at 3:08pm

Wonder how long before this comes to our National Forests.

Comment by Dustin M on March 25, 2021 at 2:08pm

Thank you, Erik. 

Comment by John Quillen on March 25, 2021 at 1:58pm

Well spoken, as usual, Erik.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on March 23, 2021 at 3:59am

So no public review/comment period on the $56 charge for groups of 8-12 to enter Whiteoak Sink for 3 hours? Has the process changed so that the tax-paying owners no longer have a voice, or is this avoided by merely labeling the new system a "trial"?

It seems obvious to me that groups of that size can easily trample sensitive areas, and I've never understood the allure of hiking in large groups. They're always loud (minimizing the chance of anyone around them seeing any wildlife) and for the attention they appear to be paying to their surroundings, they might as well be getting their steps in at the mall. I suppose there could be a sort of benefit through osmosis (?). Groups of this size should be limited, in my opinion, but not through further expansion of a wrong-minded fee system. And how simple it is, of course, to circumvent the group-size threshold of 8 persons at which point the fee kicks in. The NPS has to recognize this, so why even venture down this path? I can't help but suspect it's to further entrench the wretched concept of paying for the most fundamental, self-sufficient use of our public lands. 

As for that Harpers article and its conclusion, I've also often thought that we just need to scrap the NPS, BLM, and USFS and start anew. Those agencies -- if there should even be multiple agencies -- shouldn't, in this day and age, be in what, often times, are competing government Departments. Restructure (whole new Department?) and maybe you get more consistency and a better recognition that providing for the public's proper enjoyment is achieved by protecting and preserving Wilderness/natural areas, not by encouraging a Wally World-like setting in Yosemite Valley or with misguided efforts to be all things to all people.  

Comment by John Quillen on March 20, 2021 at 2:18pm

Kitty Benzar sent me this article and it is well worth the read. Really puts some perspective on how our beloved NPS lost its way.

Comment by John Quillen on March 16, 2021 at 12:03am

Of course, Jo. Of course.

Comment by Jo Neuspickel on March 15, 2021 at 8:25am

wow!! The next thing will be you need a reservation at trail heads (of course with a fee)!

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