Carolina Public Press: Legal challenge to Smokies backcountry fee can move forward

Here’s an excerpt from the Carolina Public Press article:

A U.S. district judge in Knoxville has ruled that a lawsuit over a backcountry user fee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can go forward. However, the ruling has denied the plaintiff the right to examine records beyond the public administrative level.

The decision is the latest in a year-long legal battle waged by Southern Forest Watch, an organization that is opposed to a $4 backcountry user fee implemented in the park on Feb. 13, 2013. The group filed a lawsuit on March 2, 2013, in U.S. District Court alleging that the fee is unlawful.

Officials have said that the park will use the funds to provide increased customer service for backcountry trip planning, reservations, permits and to enhance the backcountry experience.

However, the fee’s proposal in 2011 ignited a backlash from residents of eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina whose opposition may be influenced by decades of past politics, economics and history that altered land-use practices and access to Southern Appalachian forests.


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