I would encourage you to rethink the myth that people hold campground sites overnight and do not occupy them. I know of two occasions where people were fined for not spending the night in their campground.
In one instance, a family member broke an arm in the evening and ended up at the emergency room ‘till midnight. The family stayed in town, as the gates were locked at the campground and it was so late. The next morning they returned to a $100 fine. One must also note that there is a difference between federal and state campsites. It is legal to occupy a federal site and not spend the night there. I observed this behavior at Holland Lake when a women got the last site and drove off. I complained to the host and was informed that it was alright under federal regulations.
The problem I see is that reserving campsites does not solve the problem of non-use of the site. If I was driving a $500,000 motor home and reserved a campsite but decided to change my plans and not use it, $25 is not a whole lot of money to lose. So for $25 a campsite remains empty. At least the person placing a cooler and paying for the site will show up that night or get fined. If you do a reservation system, it will need a substantial fine tied to it to prevent no-shows.
Last year the campgrounds started reservations for 20 percent of their sites. Normally I have been able to get a site if I showed up Thursday and sometimes Friday morning. Because of the reservations, I have gone on Wednesday and the campground was filled for the weekend.
We need to discuss the value of these campgrounds to Montanans. We pay for the campsites out of our tax dollars, yet a reservations system allows out-of-state campers to book and lock up our campsites. By having a first-come basis, more Montanans who decide to go camping on a nice weekend have a better chance of getting a site.
Considering the length of time a person can occupy a site, the short Montana summer, and the relatively small number of campgrounds in Montana, we need a system that favors the people who fund these sites. It seems to me that a reservation system favors the out-of-state camper who would normally end up at a KOA rather than deal with the first-come situation we have now.