Magazine article State Legislatures

Search and Rescue Funds - Don't Leave Home without Them

Magazine article State Legislatures

Search and Rescue Funds - Don't Leave Home without Them

Article excerpt

Adventurers exploring U.S. wilderness areas can find themselves wandering aimlessly, lost and confused, in the great outdoors from time to time. Once they're found and brought back to civilization, the lost souls' gratitude (and memories) often fail when the bill arrives for their search and rescue.

Officials in scenic counties - who bear the fiscal, and in some cases statutory, burden of rescuing their visitors - often have to cross their fingers and hope that they can be repaid for efforts that can be very expensive. For example, the rescue last winter of a victim who had dug himself into a snow cave in Colorado's Routt County required military equipment, including infrared scanning, and cost more than $23,000.

Even "throwaway" items can have a financial impact. Utah Representative John Valentine, a lieutenant in the Utah County Search and Rescue Program and sponsor of legislation to create a search and rescue fund, points out that a rescuer's rope can cost $150; other, more complex, rescue equipment can cost many thousands of dollars.

Now, however, rescuers in some areas, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah and Wyoming, can turn to state funds that have been earmarked for search and rescue efforts.

Colorado has established a multitier program to aid counties. Tiers I and II of the fund help any state agency, county or local government recoup part or all of the operational costs incurred in searches for hunters, fishers, boaters, snowmobilers, hikers or off-road enthusiasts whose rescues are, through license fees, covered by the fund. …

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