Tennessee's House Of Representatives Opposes Backcountry Fee At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In its biggest political coup to date, a group fighting the backcountry fees charged at Great Smoky Mountains National Park has gotten the backing of the Tennessee State House of Representatives.

In a proclamation adopted April 9, the House expressed its "opposition to the imposition of any backcountry camping fees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are not directly associated with the use of amenities or a commercial purpose and strongly urge an immediate appeal of any such imposed fee."

Previously, the Knox County (Tennessee) Commission, as well the commissions in Bradley and Blount counties in Tennessee and Swain County in North Carolina, condemned the fee and called for its repeal.

The backcountry fee of $4 per night per person, with a $20 per person cap per trip, took effect February 13. It is intended by park officials to help streamline and improve the backcountry permitting process and heighten the presence of rangers in the backcountry.

Pinched by an inadequate budget and unable to charge an entrance fee for any of the roughly 9 million yearly visitors, park officials say they see no way of improving visitor services and protecting backcountry resources without charging users who spend the night in the woods.

The park can't charge an entrance fee because the state of Tennessee, when it agreed to transfer land to the federal government for the park, essentially forbade it.

"By condemning and calling for a repeal of this hugely unpopular and specious tax on backcountry users, the State of Tennessee has proven its intent to provide a voice for citizens that was ignored by the National Park Service as evidenced in the public comments that tallied 18-1 in opposition to the fee," said a statement from Southern Forest Watch, a non-profit group organized to lobby for the fee's repeal.

Comments


As far as I am concerned many of the regular posters are obviously anti-governmemt idealogues who also hate the idea of National Parks.


Roger - you couldn't be more wrong. I don't think there is a single person here that hates the idea of National Parks and I challange you to provided a quote from anyone stating so.

Mountainhiker - you asked about when the 60 day limit was put in place. As far as I can tell, before 2009. Here are the exact words:

"Stay limits: Persons may not stay more than three (3) nights in a row at any backcountry campsite or more than one (1) night in a row at any backcountry designated shelter.Persons may not stay more than 30 consecutive days in the backcountry or 60 days total in a one year period. Stay limits at backcountry sites are imposed to minimize the impacts associated with longer-term use and/or to offer additional persons the opportunity to use high-demand sites."

This comes from the Federal code of regulations, title 36, chapter 1. It was updated July 1, 2011. Previously updated May 2009. Changes between 2009 and 2011 are noted at the beginning. The stay limit does not appear in the update list and therefore occured before May 2009.

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/parkmgmt/upload/2011-GRSMNP-Compendium-FINAL-7-01-2011.pdf

The lawsuit also mentions some strange "new" rules regarding fires. I could find nothing anywhere which stated that, in the backcountry, branches had to be smaller than someone's arm or that paper couldn't be burned with the exception that it is unlawful to burn trash. But that has always been the case and is the case in the front country also.

The lawsuit notes that backcountry camping can only be done in designated campsites and shelters, which has always been the case (at least since 2009) but then complains that the new rules take away the freedom that previously existed.

Anyway, my impression of the lawsuit is that it was lazily put together to get publicity with the thought that no one would actually read it and, if they did, not bother to look at it closely. I'm very interested in the parts related to a "political patron" and a private resort, but I haven't found anything related to those yet.

Roger -

I think you're pretty close in your comments, but I sure hope you don't let the little barky dogs nipping around your ankles chase you away.

dahkota You said "you asked about when the 60 day limit was put in place. As far as I can tell, before 2009."

Thanks! That's at least 4 years ago. Hmmmm.

Also, thanks for taking the time to analyze and post your assessment of the lawsuit (on the previous page of this thread). Very insightful. Much appreciated.

Its so surprising that a retired national park service employee would have no problem with regular citizens paying to sleep on unimproved ground. And complimenting another person who identifies themselves as a ranger. It really is like talking to the NPS here!

Surprised to find some retired NPS employees on a blog about national parks?? What a concept :-)

Looks like the basic idea of this whole discussion is just having a hard time sinking in for a couple of readers, though. You aren't paying to "sleep on unimproved ground," you're paying for a reservation to be sure the specific piece of ground you want to sleep on is available on the specific date you choose. I realize you'll still object to that, but at least complain about the correct thing.

That piece of ground is empty most all of the time. Therefore, no need to get "assurance" of a spot. I know. I've been to every backcountry site in the park, multiple times, and stayed at most every one. There has NEVER, EVER, EVER been a time when I was unable to find a spot to sleep in a campsite. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. You folks who worry about a "reservation" just don't spend any time down here and fret about the most unnecessary thing.

Shelters are sometimes crowded on weekends and AT thru hiking season. True backcountry folks wish they weren't there. The NPS, in their infinite wisdom, have removed the backcountry sites along the AT in place of a shelter system. More NPS stupidity. They created this clogged shelter system. The AT hikers would rather sleep in a tent anyway and so would I. The new "backcountry specialist" at GRSM has been given offers to open old, abandoned backcountry sites along the AT to reduce that congestion and declined to accept these suggestions from Smokies oldtimers. Again, the NPS knows more than us barefooted locals. I don't know how we ever existed without you. But we did give this land to you. Very different situation here in the Smokies than other parks in that regard, NPS folks.

Excuse me for having a problem with giving more authority to an agency that creates headaches not only for themselves but their "consumers" as well.

I am a regular citizen. I value the national parks. They are a wonder and a gift to all citizens of the United States. I have no problem paying a small fee to sleep on unimproved ground amid the wonders of nature and, in fact, typically prefer unimproved ground in nature to the alternative. If all camping in GSMNP was suddently free, fine by me. If all camping in GSMNP requires a small fee to reserve a site, it just isn't that big of a deal. Why dimimish the beauty and peace of experiencing our nation's preserved parklands by descending into bitter warring?

In the South, we value honesty, integrity and responsibility. All those qualites have been irrevocably broken by the GRSM leadership in their handling of the backcountry fee issue. That is why there is such an uproar over this fee. It is less about the money and more about the character of the NPS which manipulates data and promotes dishonesty. It may be all in a days work at other units but they are going to have to answer for it down here and I am thrilled at the prospect of it.

SmokiesBackpacker, fwiw, I am a Southerner, born and bred. My parents and ancestors have lived here as far back as the 1700s. So I fully understand the Southern culture of personal responsiblity and integrity. We take the responsibility to live our own lives with honesty and integrity. It doesn't mean one can force others to do so. It is a "live and let live" culture.

If the lawsuit is primarily about suing one man because he allegedly lied, that still does not overturn FLREA. And it is FLREA which gives legal foundation for the reservation system and its fee. If, as you say, the lawsuit is really not about the online reservation system, or the $4 per night fee, then it seems more and more as if the lawsuit is about one group's anger towards one man in position power at GSMNP. And, honestly, I can't see that legally attacking that one man or even successfully getting rid of that one man (would the lawsuit do that?) will address the issue in a way that serves the public.

But we live in a litigious society these days and as has been said previously, anybody can sue for anything and it doesn't have to make sense, I suppose. One can sue just because they are angry and for no other reason.

Folks are angry, that is for sure. And they have good reason to be. The courts will decide the law. The lawsuit will send a message to the NPS next time they try to pull these kinds of stunt. If the NPS were responsive to citizen input, there would be no need for a lawsuit. Unfortunately, this is the only mechanism of reproach. I'll bet the next Superintendent will think twice before manipulating data, don't you?

And the court may decide that Ditmanson didn't follow the adminstrative procedures act. There certainly is no proof of his consultation with the rec advisory board. That is a regulation that was usurped. If they are going to bend the rules to do something, they need to make sure they followed the ones that matter.

SmokiesBackpacker -- you said: "And the court may decide that Ditmanson didn't follow the adminstrative procedures act."

I can't speak to that. The courts will have to decide whether he did or he didn't. Regardless, I don't believe that makes the reservation system, the fee, or the basis for the fee -- FLREA -- illegal. But the procedural rules appear to be pretty straight forward and I agree with you that he (Ditmanson) should have followed them.

SmokiesBackpacker -- you said: " If the NPS were responsive to citizen input, there would be no need for a lawsuit."

If not following public input is the basis of the lawsuit, I'd like to see where FLREA or any other applicable legislation states that the National Park Service must follow the specific public feedback given to them. I can understand if it were a nationwide vote -- all citizens must provide input into their national park service procedures and management. But it was voluntary. Some people (mostly locals?) provided input. Most citizens across the 50 states didn't. Is the federal government legally obliged to do what the majority public opinion indicates?

Mtnhiker,

I have seen copies of all the public comments and read each one. There were as many comments it seemed from outside the state of TN and NC. Quiet a few from Ohio and Georgia as well. That is why there is a petition to recall Ditmanson from Ohio and Kentucky, I presume.

I imagine if there are thousands or millions of signatures to recall anyone in the government, that might get the Feds' attention. If its a few dozen, I don't know if it would even be a blip on the radar. How has the government responded to this petition?

I have to say again, the more I see or read about this situation, the more it seems like one man is being targeted. I don't know that man personally, have never met him, but it seems to me that the backcountry reservation system fees are a system-wide issue. And even if this one man is recalled/removed or retires of his own accord, the next person in that position will follow the established system. So, I honestly think its the system that the founders of the lawsuit have an issue with -- the National Parks System -- and Congress, the entity which signed into law FLREA.

Actually, SmokiesBackpacker, according to the documents on the website for the group pushing the lawsuit, GSMNP was pretty thorough in following the administrative procedures act. I think you need a new tree.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3rQxlRiSX1Rczd4OV9maENTdG1DenM0ejhkR1hEQQ/edit

check page 10 and 12.

Don't see where Ditmanson consulted the recreation advisory board in there. Show me where that exists in that document.

Well, Ditmanson is not required to - he is the Superintendent. It is the Secretary's responsibility to get input from the Recreation Advisory Board.

SEC. 3. RECREATION FEE AUTHORITY.
...
3(b)(5) The Secretary shall obtain input from the appropriate Recreation Resource
Advisory Committee, as provided in section 4(d).

Here: http://www.nps.gov/resources/advisoryboard.htm

is information on the Advisory Board, which meets four times per year to consider issues and actions related to the NPS. Ditmanson did everything requested by his Regional Manager.

I will look into that Dakhota but I don't think that going on record as saying there were no complaints from congressional representatives is going to fly very well in a trial. That is deliberate falsification of data. (just like the campsite overcrowding assertions) I can assure you he didn't follow other protocols. Another would be the shortened public comment period. I am going to look into the rules on that. Or you can just provide it since you seem to be in the NPS "know". Let me guess, you are going to tell me that the NPS can shorten the public comment period at their discretion, Im sure. You guys can do whatever you want over there.

The public comment period was 30 days. The same required throughout the rest of the government. I have no idea why you call that shortened.

He didn't say that there were no complaints from congressional representatives. He stated Swain County Commissioners were against it.

I am a researcher by trade. My job is data aquisition. What I research here is just an extension of what I do every day, though my 'day job' research is not NPS related. I just really enjoy finding out facts and being able to back them up.

It is interesting that Big Cypress also created and raised fees and yet using the same process and yet, there is little bluster about it.

dahkota

Did they Big Cypress publicly put out falsehoods and false statements also?

mountainhiker

"...descending into bitter warring?..."

How else to you fight tyranny?

dahkota -- "I just really enjoy finding out facts and being able to back them up."

For all the references you are providing, thank you dahkota. I have a great deal of respect for research, facts, and objective assessment. Too much of this lawsuit seems to be about emotional upset and accusation without a sufficient or clear basis in facts and objective research.

Mtnhiker,

You have successfully derailed the conversation here from the article which is the Tn State House of Representatives Condeming the fee to the lawsuit over the fee. Whenever someone posts that they object to the lies from the park superintendent as evidenced by the Tn Proclamation, and several county proclamations, you go back to the lawsuit. This article IS about public sentiment over the fee, which is TOTALLY REJECTED by the public. I am beginning to realize that the NPS is very, very concerned about this lawsuit by observing all the energy that is being put into it over here. That makes me quite happy. I'll bet there are a lot of moustaches out of joint.

Tennessee Backpacker -- you asked: "How else to you fight tyranny?"

You and I apparently disagree as to whether or not this situation really involves tyranny. And I expect we also disagree on the value of war.

SmokiesBackpacker -- you stated "You have successfully derailed the conversation here from the article which is the Tn State House of Representatives Condeming the fee to the lawsuit over the fee."

The first person to bring the lawsuit into this discussion, back on the 1st page, is . . . SmokiesBackpacker who said: "It would be a very, very smart move, especially in light of the lawsuit pending over this fee which could have implications for the entirety of the NPS."

I have to note that Big Cypress requested permission to begin public discussion of raising fees but they put it off for a year. It should be coming soon but they have been working on hunting management instead.

I still don't get where you (SmikesBackpacker) think the falsehoods exist or why you think they exist. It seems to me that, no matter what, you believe what you believe and nothing will change your mind. That is all well and good but, if you read what you posted and linked to, you might relax a little on your position. A lot of the data I got from Southern Forest Watch and the documents they uploaded. My statement above about the Secretary (the part in quotes) came from YOUR post. You obviously didn't read it either.

Just curious here. After four pages of comments, are there any points that haven't been peated and repeated?

Rick B,LOL, this one may never end.Lot's of passion !!!!!! over ????

Rick B. , eh law, I guess we'll see. This thread has now stretched as far as the accusation of tyranny.

You know, I am curious since there is obviously a preponderance of NPS employees here if you will indulge a question. The over riding rub in this situation appears to be that the NPS makes unilateral decisions without any troubling concerns of citizen input. I am very willing to hear a proposal from you NPS people as to how public input should be incorporated into decisions such as this? It is apparent that this whole fee thing was a predetermined notion for which the park went through all the perfunctory motions and proceeded with their agenda. Is it the purpose of the house natural resouces sub committee to provide oversight when this federal agency marches on? Is is the place of citizens such as the Southern Forest Watch to pursue the matter in court? Is it the place of the local unit, in this respect, the GRSM to actually give weight to citizen input? I am just curious if NPS people actually have any concern at all for the desires of citizens or if that is just something that is specific to the upper echelons like Jarvis and Ditmanson?

SmokiesBackpacker, I am not an NPS employee, I am a state park employee (see my bio on this website) and I can give a little insight maybe into this from my perspective. The public comment periods that occur when an action by a park requires it (some actions don't require it) are taken into consideration by the decision makers. But there are many factors that are considered in addition to the public comments. In this case (and I haven't delved too deeply into the details) the park probably over the years has had complaints from backcountry campers concerning overcrowding at the most popular sites (particularly during the heavy use seasons) and perhaps degradation of the sites caused by overcrowding. (The statistic you use of 2 campers per campsite per night is probably an annual figure and doesn't account for the typical winter months of no use or weekdays when many sites are empty.) So, let's say the park staff have received lots of complaints over the course of a number of years and the rangers have had to address numerous issues of overcrowding during the heaviest use periods. And maybe persons who had reserved campsites even during the slower season occasionally arrive at the site they reserved only to find someone without a permit already there. So over time this has become a recurring complaint and issue. As popular as GSMNP is I can certainly see this could be a problem.

What do you do as manager of the park? Well, you can do nothing and continue to hear complaints year after year or you can propose a solution such as a reservation system. You and many others do lots of research and you come up with what you think is a viable solution. Maybe you know it won't be popular with some folks but something has to be done and this is the best solution you and others have come up with. Now you are required to have a public comment period. The minimum period for federal agencies, I believe, is 30 days. So you post public notice of the comment period and you receive comments. And the comments are 18 to 1 against what you proposed. Now what?

You must now consider: All the years of complaints you had, the number of times your rangers were called out to address issues, the costs of repairing overused sites, the cost of the proposed solution, the revenues to be generated, (will they cover the costs and should that be a factor? Suprised? some things need to be done even if no recovery of costs are available) natural resource destruction concerns, and the public comments you received. After all the factors (and there could be more) are considered, you again ask is what you proposed the best solution? It may not be. Sometimes you propose something thinking it is good and then after public comments and additional analysis you see that perhaps in general what you thought was the best could be tweaked in a way that will still accomplish your goal but can alleviate some of the concerns people had. But sometimes, after you look at all the factors, even though the public comments were mostly against it, the other factors outweigh the concerns of the commenters and you have to go forward with what you and your agency feel is the best solution.

So, to put it in a nutshell, public comments are certainly a part of the process and sometimes can spark a change in a proposed action that will accomplish the task and satisfy most of the people. But in the end the park management has to make a final decision and move forward. To bastardize a phrase, you can please some of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time. My guess is that the park received enough "informal public comments" if you will, in the form of complaints (which often are verbal and not documented on paper but may have also been letters) and/or law enforcement actions over a course of years and that was the driving factor of looking into a reservation system. And after all was considered, it was still considered the best solution.

One last note, public comments are valuable to managers who make decisions but the best are the ones that not only verbalize against the action but offer viable alternative solutions. And by viable I mean they must meet the "lawyer tests" of within agency policy, public safety and privacy among other tests.

I hope this has been helpful. I have faced issues like this before both from the park management side and from the "opposed to" side. It takes both to make sure we do what's best for the precious resources entrusted to us as managers. It's often frustrating as heck but my experience has been that when those who oppose look at the result later down the road they usually end up saying maybe they didn't agree with it but things are better as a result and the right thing was done. I hope that will be you and many others someday.

PS: I wonder if anyone has ever done studies on public comment periods and the number of comments in opposition as opposed to comments in favor? My experience is that the oppositon is usually much louder and more numerous at public meetings and in public comments. Is there a psychological reason for this? Perhaps folks in favor tend to think "Ok, they are proposing what I want so I don't need to comment". I don't know. I'm sure someone has studied this. It would be interesting to see results of such studies.

Ranger Dave

Thanks for your response. there is one problem, however. The Southern Forest Watch requested copies of complaints regarding the backcountry and backcountry issues for the 3 years preceeding the fee implementation. Do you know how many complaints there were? Get ready. It was a whopping 15 total complaints. I have seen the FOIA documents and can provide a link where they are posted. That hardly justfies this backcountry reservation system. As a matter of fact, I don't believe that there was but one or two that had anything to do with the reservation system. Most had to do with horse damage to trails (they don't pay the fee unless they overnight, which rarely occurs) and all but 5 were from the same person!

I can understand why horsemen aren't charged a fee to use trails for the day at GSMNP. It's the same reason hikers don't pay to use trails for the day. And the same reason people who enter by car or by bicycle or by motorcycle or by moped or by foot aren't charged a fee just to access the park during the day. That's an entrance fee and that's contrary to the original GSMNP contractual agreement.

Ranger Dave -- I know nothing of this situation other than what I've read here. But your explanation is the best of any comments out of the flood that appear here. Thanks.

It's responses like yours -- one that doesn't fan the flames, but tries to offer a rational explanation -- that can accomplish good things. We need more like it in many places around our country. But there will be those who are willing to listen and those who will refuse to even consider it. That has to be up to the receiver. Change is always difficult and virtually all changes meet at least some opposition. That happened when the shuttles were proposed for Zion. Now you'd have to look long and hard to find anyone who won't tell you it's the greatest thing that has happened there since the place was discovered. Even those who opposed it most vehemently have been converted. Maybe that will happen in the Smokies, too. Only time and experience will tell.

SmokiesBackpacker, like I said, I don't know all the reasons, only the park management can address the reasons why this was thought to be something that needed to be done. I can say with all confidence that I don't believe it was just to charge someone a fee because they could. I don't believe any human would subject themselves to what he is going through on purpose and without good reason. And I also know he didn't come to this decision in a vacuum. Others were involved in it for sure. Many times I hear complaints from guests that never make it on paper. It's hard to say if that was the case here. I just hope it gets worked out to a reasonable solution and no one is damaged beyond repair. If wrong-doing took place it needs to be rooted out but it is not prevalant within the system. This I feel strongly about. I hope you get the answers you are looking for. Now, for the next issue, Do Dogs and National Parks Mix?

PS: Thanks, Lee Dalton.

Hmm mountain hiker. Why don't we limit the number of horses, or hikers or cars and then implement a reservation system. Then it would be a reservation fee and not an entrance fee.

Speaking of fees for making a reservation, I just reserved a campsite at City of Rocks National Preserve in Idaho. CIRO is a joint NPS / Idaho State Parks site that is somehow dually administered by the two agencies. Camping is apparently controlled by the state park system and reservations must be made through them.

Campsites are $12.72 per night (including Idaho tax) and the Golden Age pass is not valid. Just after I hung up, I realized that the bill had been $48 instead of the expected $38 or whatever. So I called back, thinking they might have misunderstood and reserved the site for four instead of only three nights.

That's when they told me about a $10 reservation fee that is tacked onto each application. Reasonable? Unreasonable?

Me, I think it's a bit high, but not unreasonable. Idaho's taxpayers are not paying for my recreation beyond helping to keep a very delightful place open for me to enjoy. That seems fair enough.

Lee, did you check the cancellation fee? When I was looking into campgrounds at Lassen Volcanic National Park, I saw not only the reservation fee, but a $10 cancellation fee. And if you read the fine print, your reservation fee is non-refundable. So if you pay $10 to make a reservation for a $16-$18 a night campsite, and then cancel, you've essentially spent $20 for the privilege of using recreation.gov. They really can get you coming and going....with today's sophisticated software, those fees seem a bit excessive for a campsite.

No, Kurt, I didn't. But I already know there is a cancellation fee for Recreation.gov -- although I've never had to use it. And I've also found it much easier and more comfortable for this old man to use the telephone instead of computer to make a reservation. Somehow it seems to me that talking with a real, live human is better. Also, at City of Rocks, the reservations are made through ReserveAmerica and not rec.gov.

And yes, while it may seem to be a bit high, I don't think it's totally unreasonable. Even with sophisticated software, there still need to be people behind the equipment. And, once a reservation has been made, there is a lot of work behind the scenes that must be done.

For example, I've frequently camped in campgrounds that contain notes on campsite markers declaring that particular campsite is "Reserved" for such and such dates. I don't know exactly what the process involved is, but someone in the campground must walk around and post those notes. Then, if a cancellation occurs, the notes must be removed.

But does any of the cancellation fee (or reservation fee, for that matter) get passed along to whatever entitity is running the campground? I don't know.

Delving into the mysteries of reservation systems might be a good assignment for one your top investigative reporters.

ecbuck -- you said: Hmm mountain hiker. Why don't we limit the number of horses, or hikers or cars and then implement a reservation system. Then it would be a reservation fee and not an entrance fee.

If the horsemen or hikers or car drivers are staying overnight, they already pay a reservation fee. All campers pay a reservation fee. But no one is restricted from accessing the park during the day.

As for limitation, I can see that certain limitation occurs in terms of accommodations (for instance, no more than a certain number of campers per site, whether frontcountry, backcountry or horse camps). I don't anyplace where the number of people are limited beyond that. Are you suggesting that people should be limited in terms of access to GSMNP?

Lee Dalton, ReserveAmerica and Recreation.gov are the same thing. Both are under a multinational corporation called The Active Network, which has been in the financial news lately accused of accounting irregularities.

http://www.presciencepoint.com/uncategorized/active-network-inc-actv-oct-2012/#

Their CEO and Executive Director both "resigned" abruptly on May 1st.

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/may/02/Active-Network-Sees-Top-Executives-Leave/

Hmmmm. Very, very interesting, KBenzar. Very interesting. Thanks for the tip.

It sounds like this is something that one of Kurt's crack investigators could have some fun researching. I see from their website that one of their locations is just south of me in Draper, Utah.

I keep wondering if there is ANYTHING in the world anymore that is just a plain, ordinary, straightforward operation that doesn't have a web of mystery surrounding it to protect their interests -- whatever those interests may happen to be.

Mtnhiker - obviously the reference to your symantic juggling went over your head.

ecbuck, you're right. I didn't understand your point. Could you clarify please?

I found this 2005 news release on the Forest Service website:

"The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service today announced the award of a contract to provide a single, interagency federal recreation information and reservation service called the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS).

The three and a half-year, performance-based service contract was awarded to ReserveAmerica of Ballston Spa, N.Y. The contract provides for additional option periods for a total contract period not to exceed 10 years with a total potential value of $97 million."

http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2005/releases/06/recreation-system.shtml

In 2009, The Active Network acquired ReserveAmerica and thus the Forest Service contract. (http://venturebeat.com/2009/01/26/active-network-acquires-online-campsite-booker-reserveamerica/)

I found this on pg 12-9 of the FY13 Forest Service budget justification:

"The Forest Service is the contracting agency for the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS), part of Recreation.gov, an e-government initiative. The Forest Service has extended the contract through FY 2013, valued at $100 million to provide reservations for all recreation facilities on public lands that allow reservations."

http://www.fs.fed.us/aboutus/budget/2013/fy2013-justification.pdf

The recreation.gov domain must be registered to the Forest Service as only government entities in the U.S. can use .gov domains. What's not clear is whether the reservation system pays for itself, but you would hope at $10/reservation it is.

Sara, you amaze me. Thanks. We need more folks like you who are able to lay out facts instead of opinions.

Amen, Lee Dalton. Facts are much appreciated. Thanks to Sara!

GRSM initially received authorization to charge the fee under the condition they use recreation.gov. Here is a page in their correspondence says that the costs will go to pay for the reservation system and no additional revenue will be generated as a result of the fee, only to cover the recreation.gov service costs. What did GRSM do? They abandoned rec.gov in favor of their "own" system? What does this mean? That their system costs a quarter million per year? I don't know but here is a link to the document which says that. Check out page 4, paragraph 3. Just another misrepresentation by Dale Ditmanson regarding this fee.

And thank you KBenzar for illuminating recreation.gov. A canadian force driving fees in our national parks. They are now handling the "firefly" crisis for us here in the Smokies. How did we ever exist without them?

I have to give some credit to the wikipedia entry for ReserveAmerica which mentions the Forest Service contract and recreation.gov, without source citations. Basically, doing a web search on "forest service contract recreation.gov" or "forest service budget recreation.gov" brought up some of those sources.

Recreation.gov is mentioned in most of the FS's budget justifications going back to at least FY07. FY14 budget said this on pg 12-19:

"The Forest Service is the contracting agency for the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS), part of Recreation.gov, an egovernment initiative. The contract is valued at $100 million to provide reservations for all recreation facilities on public lands that allow reservations. One task of administering the contract is to manage the pass through account for the reservation fees for all agencies. Over $13,000,000 annually is included in this program, and as more sites come on to the reservation system throughout the entire federal public lands system, this account will continue to grow. This program also requires five percent of the recreation fee collections to go towards regional offices that provides strategic program oversight, financial management, training, and grants to forests for improvements/special projects on the ground."

On page 12-18, the report does indicate that $12M of Forest Service recreation revenue comes from the National Recreation Reservation Service.

I did find what looks like the original contract solicitation and award on fedbizopps.gov https://www.fbo.gov/ There is not a lot of detail, but the original contract award was for $128M.

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=070ba47773b8c464fd56550152f879c9&_cview=1

I think a nominal fee is appropriate. There is no fee to enter the park and they do charge fees for campgrounds. A small backcountry fee is a good idea, since it will help fund any SAR efforts and help maintain trails and campsites.