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Lawsuit Against Backcountry User Fee At Great Smoky Mountains National Park Can Proceed


A lawsuit challenging the backcountry user fee assessed at Great Smoky Mountains National Park can proceed, a federal judge has ruled.

Although Judge Joseph M. Hood rejected portions of the lawsuit brought by Southern Forest Watch, Inc., against the Interior Department and the National Park Service, he kept intact the group's challenge to the $4 per night per person fee for backcountry travelers in the national park.

The backcountry fee, with a $20 per person cap per trip, took effect in February 2013. It is intended by park officials to help streamline and improve the backcountry permitting process and heighten the presence of rangers in the backcountry.

In suing to overturn the fee, Southern Forest Watch contends not only that the fee isn't merited, but draws on both Park Service history and mandates to contend the agency is precluded from charging the $4 per person per night fee.

While Judge Hood dismissed the group's challenge of the online registration system the park put in effect, saying the plaintiffs had failed to show they were injured by the system, he ruled they could challenge the nightly fees. In doing so, he rejected the government's claim that the Park Service enjoyed sovereign immunity in creating and implementing the reservation system and fee structure.

"Plaintiffs may challenge the superintendent’s decision to implement the backpacker registration fee under the APA, and this Court will have jurisdiction," Judge Hood ruled.

No date for the challenge was immediately set.


Just read up on neo-liberalism. It makes what's happening around us even more frightening.

Thanks, Ron.

Thanks, Ron. You always were one to educate the rest of us. I recall your steady, calm wisdom back in the wild days of pot and pills and Yosemite. I'll check it out -- tomorrow.

Lee, RickB, check out wikipedia for the most current meaning of the term neo-liberalism, where it started, why and its chief economic spokesperson Friedman Hydeck. Hydeck actually received a Nobel Prize in economics and was a friend of John Maynard Keynes, they were air raid wardens together in London during the second world war. Milton Friedman picked it up at the University of Chicago (the reason for the term Chicago Boys) and it became accepted economic policy starting with the President Reagan administration, that is if I have my history right. The term is now used frequently by writers like Naomi Kline, Thom Hartman, Amy Goodman, etc. The term is used on alternative (left of center) talk and cable channels. EC, agree or not and with your years of experience in the financial world, I think you would find it interesting also, as it deals with terms used frequently now on mainstream media TV about free markets, taxation, governmental regulations, etc. and the reaction to said by many citizens. Enough from this less than an expert on the subject, but Lee, check this weeks "Naioin Magazine" (March 31st) on a very informative article on pesticide pollution issues. Very applicable to discussions of parks, wildlands, agriculture, etc.

Agreed, Lee, unless a college professor somewhere has redefined terms for us.

Ron, are you sure you don't mean neo-conservative instead of neo-liberal?

Otherwise, your comment is spot on.

Getting back to the issue at hand here, the Smokies backcountry fee, I would like to say that when the portion of the lawsuit that deals with political patronage is raised, there is going to be a lot of squirming by some well connected politicos in the region. There is going to be one prominent US Senator who will have his drawers in a serious wad when connections are made between him and a private resort that is allowed to own their own trail system within the park. Wonder why this resort was allowed to do so and park users are excluded from it? Yes, its going to be very fun. Fun times ahead. The NPS culture is going to be on trial and it will be like the Ranger Danno thing all over again. This is all your doing, Jarvis. To my knowledge, you never returned any one of the hundreds of emails from folks here who had questions about this fee. You were too important to be bothered with it. This bird has come home to roost. I predict a run on moustache wax.

Thank you Kurt for the commentary. I am not an economist, certainly not an expert, but I do know the neo-liberal economic philosophy really took hold with President Reagan, Milton Friedman ( a pupil of Friedrick Hydeck) was his top economic advisor, gained tremendous traction with President Clinton with his appointment of Alan Greenspan to head the Fed and Robert Rubin as Treasury Secretary, and was put on steroids by President Bush (2). It is an interesting debate, and quite complicated involving the free trade agreements, historically low tax rates, loss of the manufacturing base of the country which supported good paying jobs to many people, etc. There are those economists that claim the boom and bust cycles of the 1890s. 1920s, and 2007 were primarily caused by these low tax rates, resulting in the real estate and wall street financial manipulations that are causing so many problems right now. Many predict another bubble burst in the near future. In the 1960s, manufacturing accounted for about 1/3 of GNP, now it is 1/10th. Financial Institutions accounted for a 1/10, now it is over 50%. I know many have bought into this free wheeling capitalistic "Free Market" theory, and some of them are doing very well, thank you. They do not have to be concerned with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Tillman Act, the Glass-Steagall Act and so many other legislative safeguards built in by both Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. In any case, for the median income groups, the majority of us, we are not doing to well, we can see it daily in the concentration of wealth of the country, the corporate monopolies, the amazing amounts of money being poured into political campaigns, the for profit medical community, the homeless on all our street corners, well at least you can it here in California. We can also see it in our public infrastructure, roads falling apart, schools in disrepair, local, state and federal agencies being underfunded, freeways clogged, etc. . History will judge, but I do not buy any of the neo-liberal economic agenda, it simply does not work for the benefit of the majority of citizens. In fact even Alan Greenspan is having second thoughts.

It is a sad state of affairs when the only governing philosophy the last 30 years for our country is the President Calvin Coolidge motto, "what is good for business is good for America".

Of course they dont pay 39 percent. That is the top marginal tax rate . It is the marginal tax rate that controls incremental economic activity. The more your next dollar is taxed the less you are llikely to try to earn it.

Ps please give more details on where this chart showing effective rates is located.

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