How should the state fund hiker rescues?
By: LFDA Editor
In 2014, NH passed a bill to establish “Hike Safe Cards” that can be purchased by hikers, indemnifying them against the costs of rescue operations on their behalf regardless of whether they are deemed negligent. Negligent hikers that choose not to buy Hike Safe Cards may still be billed for the cost of rescue.
Proponents of the current rescue system argue that:
- Irresponsible hikers should bear the financial toll of their actions
- Because recouping costs from negligent hikers is difficult, Hike Safe Cards provide necessary additional funding
- Hikers are more likely than others to call for help, so the Hike Safe Cards are a fair contribution to the search and rescue fund (license fees assessed to hunters, fishermen, and snowmobilers are the primary source of revenue for the search and rescue fund)
Opponents believe that:
- Rescues are a public service and hikers should not have to bear the cost
- These types of laws will deter people from calling for help due to the potential bill they will have to shoulder
- The system of charging hikers for a card will cost money to implement while still not providing enough revenue to manage rescue costs
2014 LegislationHB 256
was introduced in 2013 to establish a minimum flat fee for search and rescue unless the individual rescued possessed a current hunting or fishing license, an OHRV, snowmobile, or boat registration, or a voluntary Hike Safe Card issued by the department.
The House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee waited to act on the bill until the 2014 legislative session, when it passed the House and then the Senate with revisions. In May 2014, the House and Senate agreed on a final version of HB 256 that establishes the Hike Safe Card. The $25 card guarantees a hiker that he/she will not be charged the cost of a rescue, regardless of negligence. HB 256 also establishes a commission to study sustainable funding options for the Fish and Game Department.
Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed HB 256 into law July 21, 2014.
Previous LegislationSB 128
created a study committee in 2011 to determine who should pay when state authorities carry out search and rescue operations for lost or injured hikers. The committee recommended
several ways to raise funds for search and rescue, including creating a Hike Safe Card, which, for a fee, would guarantee that a hiker not be billed for rescue unless proven negligent.
In 2008, the state passed a negligent hiker law, giving the state the power to bill lost or injured hikers for the cost of their rescue mission if found negligent.