You are here

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.


This headline is a bit misleading since it was not the collective body of the TN House of Representatives that proclaimed their opposition to the backcounty fee. The proclamation I read expressed the views of only two representatives: House Speaker Beth Harwell and District 19 Representative Harry Brooks (District 19 contains areas bordering the NE portion of the Knoxville Metro area

A truly powerful statement would be a proclamation that represented the majority view of the entire Tennessee State House. I'd like to know why at least representatives for districts bordering the Smokies didn't sign-on to this proclamation? Those areas are represented by Jeremy Faison, District 11; Dale Carr, District 12; and Art Swann, District 8. What were their official views regarding this proclamation? Here's a link to an interactive State of Tennessee webpage that shows maps for political districts along with the politician for those districts; just click on the appropriate areas to see details for that district:

This entire process reminds me of a political fight where the higher-up the political ladder you climb, the less likely it is that the politician in that position will be interested in making waves. You can bet your bottom dollar that our federal-level politicians will not come out in official opposition to anything the National Park Service supports. This is why it is important for us to express our views on special interest blogs such as National Parks Traveler.

More and more political entities echo the sentiments of the citizens on this issue and Jarvis and Ditmanson march blithely on. I hope that Sec Jewell will reign these cowboys in and revoke authorization for the fee as a mechanism to regain the public trust in the most visited National Park. 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.

Thank you National Parks Traveler.

Thanks TnHiker for pointing out that only 2 people signed this. Indeed the article title is somewhat misleading. Frankly, I don't understand all the anger over paying a small fee to camp overnight in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I'm grateful for the opportunity to experience this amazing place. At a time when funds are squeezed and portions of parks are having to shut down due to budget cuts, bringing such a frivolous lawsuit makes no sense.

This proclamation is a precursor to a full joint house and senate proclamation condemning the Smokies fee. The public comments are 18-1 opposing the fee. Apparently, you are in the minority if you can't understand the outrage. Now the growing list of counties opposing the fee is undeniable and will serve the lawsuit well in proving that the NPS didn't properly vet the stakeholding counties. It is quite the embarrassment to Ditmanson and Jarvis, I imagine.

I'm in the minority on many issues I suppose, because I don't simply follow the status quo of what everyone else thinks. Then again, I'm grateful for the national parks, in particular for the GSMNP, and I don't mind paying a small fee to camp. The parks are already under financial duress in these times due to federal government budget cuts. To me, this is a time to support our national parks, not work against them.

Yea Mountainhiker.

What difference does the law make anyway? huh?

And it's okay for our federal government to lie, cheat and steal too, huh?


At the least, your last paragraph hit the nail on the head.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide