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 September 9, 2020 at 10:39am

This is a big win for victims of the fire. I hope they get damages from the NPS over this.

Comment by John Quillen on June 18, 2020 at 4:53am

While Lameass is breaking his arm to pat himself on the back here, I will never forgive him for supporting the tax on backcountry camping and his refusal to meet with any of us to justify his decision. If you read this article, take note of where the Smokies money is going, roads and wastewater treatment. None of it has to do with the backcountry. His legacy is that of instituting a backcountry tax and lying. (and other things but I will not start a discussion about those acts of cowardice here)

Comment by John Quillen on May 24, 2020 at 9:42am

Well said, as usual Erik. Pavement is always the park's greatest expenditure, so it really makes sense to create some more. I am increasingly wondering if the mountain bike proposal (and I am an avid mtn biker) doesn't have something to do with Blackberry Farms newly developed mtn biking trail system recently completed on their property. I could see them pushing the NPS to create a trail that connects to theirs so they can continue their legacy of public lands for private gain vis a vie our favorite Blackberry founding Senator.

Comment by Erik Gerhardt on May 23, 2020 at 5:02pm

Thanks for the heads up, John. Just did get my comments in before the deadline, for what that effort is worth.

Any road expansion/construction when the park attributes 80% of its maintenance backlog to existing roads is ridiculous. They call the road "deficient" rather than properly assessing inappropriate use by some larger vehicles. Doesn't seem like it ought to be that difficult to curb with some prominent signage, well-placed "Bob's Boulders" and heavy fines for violators. There's nothing wrong with the road. Reminds me of the erroneous label "problem bear" when the issue almost always stems from garbage storage/disposal and human behavior.

Consider, too, that the $178 million Foothills Parkway extension is an undeniable culprit in any increased traffic Wears Cove Gap is seeing. Regarding traffic volume concerns, where's the logic in building a new road into Metcalf Bottoms or expanding the current route? How do either of those considerations do anything other than increase traffic and effectively set in motion a futile, self-defeating coping strategy of perpetual road expansion?

Our public lands do not need wider or additional roads

Concerning the proposed bike trails, the mentions of a concessioner and instituting biker limits are both fee alert red flags. So I worry that such a system of trails just becomes another means for the NPS to further entrench a wrong-minded and rudderless trend.

And should it turn out that fees are not a part of the equation -- while that would be good and proper on the one hand, it would on the other, however, pointedly underscore the NPS's terribly misplaced priorities to have/find/spend money for an entirely new bike trail network while continuing to charge backpackers for the traditional, fundamental, self-sufficient act of shouldering the few items they require and striking off into their woods.  

Comment by John Quillen on May 21, 2020 at 8:48am

The comment period closes tonight, so get yours in.

Comment by John Quillen on May 21, 2020 at 8:47am

Here is a direct link to the comment page.

Comment by John Quillen on May 21, 2020 at 8:45am

The NPS is proposing spending a lot of money to build another big road in Metcalf bottoms. I am for the mtn biking proposal, but this road is just a waste of money. Be sure to leave a comment here.

Comment by John Quillen on April 6, 2020 at 8:54pm

  NPS logic, Dustin.

Comment by Dustin M on April 6, 2020 at 8:39pm

Setting backfires with a 80mph wind forecast ?!

Comment by John Quillen on April 6, 2020 at 8:31pm


The park service tried to get the whole thing dismissed but this judge said no. Remember they sent Ca$h on a little "assignment' to D.C. until they thought the smoke cleared. Problem was, people died. And I can tell you, because Myers and I were there the night before it jumped into town, and saw it for ourselves. It was unbelievable the wall of flames. I actually have video of it somewhere, I think. I'm not a firefighter, but we both were like "what if that thing got into town?"  And the NPS was setting backfires. I wonder if it was the backfires that "backfired"?

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