- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit over backcountry camping fees implemented last year at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can move forward.

However, Eastern District of Kentucky Senior Judge Joseph Hood dismissed a portion of the lawsuit that challenges an online reservation system.

According to media reports, Hood said in his ruling this week that South Forest Watch had failed to show any harm from the reservation system.

“Plaintiffs may prefer the old reservation system to the online reservation system, but plaintiffs’ desire for the old voluntary reservation system does not allege an injury in fact that creates a case or controversy, thereby giving this court jurisdiction,” he said in his opinion.

However, he said the organization has the standing to challenge the fee under the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

The park began mandating use of an online reservation system and charging a $4 per person, per night fee for use of more than 80 backcountry campsites and 15 trail shelters on Feb. 13, 2013.

Before then, only a few of the most used backcountry sites needed reservations and there was no fee.

The case will be heard in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

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