I’m not a lawyer; I’m educated in accounting. It has came to my attention that a non-profit organization has threaten to sue the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The basis is that the new fee imposed on backpackers is highly illegal. This is the organization: http://www.southernforestwatch.org/ . They mentioned on their site that the fee is an “entrance fee.” They are indeed correct about the deed stipulation and the Smokies continues to not charge such fee. I have done some reading and I believe I have found the legal cause for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to legally collect fees from backpackers. Here a link to FAQ for the GSMNP: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/parkmgmt/bc-reservation-permit-faq.htm and here a quote from the same link:
“6. Will I be able to purchase an annual backcountry camping pass?
Backcountry fees will be collected under authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). FLREA permits the creation of annual passes for park entrance fees but not other fees, such as backcountry use fees. Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not have an entrance fee.”
So, that lead me to reading about the FLREA, again here the link: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/Recreation/recreation_national/recreation_fees__/rea_info_page/rea_summary.html
Here the key quote from FLREA:
“Expanded Amenity Fees are fees that provide direct benefits to individuals or groups. They include things like developed campgrounds, cabin rentals, highly developed boat docks and swimming areas. They may also include services like hookups, dump stations, special tours and reservations services.:”
The keywords from the above quote is “reservations services.” Which is essentially the primary purpose of the fee. I believe this is will be the government main argument and they did indeed follow through with a lot better reservation and planning services that were resulted of the fee.
The previous reservation system wasn’t broken, but it could have been improved and I actually like the new system. So, I will be gladly pay the $4 to enjoy such convenience service. I also live in an area where there are much more places to go backpacking that doesn’t cost money other than gas and food.
Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.