Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Southern Forest Watch Loses Legal Fight Against Backcountry Camping Fees

According to documents provided by John Quillen, a lawsuit brought forth by the Southern Forest Watch group that challenged the backcountry camping fee system in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has failed.

In July of 2011 Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that they were considering a new backcountry fee system to help pay costs associated with backcountry camping. Almost immediately after being announced, the proposal generated strong opposition. Despite the opposition, the park implemented the $4 per night, per person fee in February of 2013. The following month the Southern Forest Watch filed a lawsuit against the fee.

The grass roots group argued that "backcountry camping is differentiated from front country camping in that no amenities are provided to campers other than the metal cables that are constructed to raise campers' gear and food above the level at which bears can access said gear and food". Southern Forest Watch also argued that the backcountry camping fee is illegal under several federal statutes, including the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

However, last week, a federal judge in Knoxville ruled that the National Park Service is within its rights to implement the $4 per night per person fee. In the end, the judge stated that the "Plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the imposition of an online reservation system..."

For more information, please click here or visit the Southern Forest Watch website.

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