Hiker Negligence - Issue Summary

Should the state bill lost hikers for rescue efforts?

Negligent Hiker Law
By: LFDA Editor

In 2008, NH passed a ‘negligent hiker law’ allowing the state to bill lost hikers the cost of the rescue mission. Proponents believe irresponsible hikers should bear the financial toll of their actions, while opponents fear the law will deter people from calling for help.

In April 2009, state rescue teams spent three days searching for an Eagle Scout stranded on Mount Washington. While he was later billed $25,000 for a helicopter and labor provided by state fish and game officers, the state eventually gave up efforts to recoup the money.

The issue prompted the 2011 N.H. Legislature to pass SB 128, which created a study committee to answer the question: Who should pay when state authorities carry out search and rescue operations for lost or injured hikers?

The study committee reported its findings Nov. 1, 2011. The committee recommended several ways to raise funds for search and rescue. Recommendations included increasing Fish and Game fines by $10, establishing flat fees for the rescue of individuals who do not have proof of a valid hunting/fishing license, OHRV/ATV or boat registration, and creating a "Hike Safe Card." The "Hike Safe Card" would cost $18 and guarantee that a hiker would not be billed for rescue unless proved negligent. 

Those who support the committee's recommendations point out the difficulty of recouping costs from negligent hikers, and the grave need for additional search and rescue funding.  Supporters also note that under the current system hikers do not contribute any money to the search and rescue fund, even though hikers are more likely than hunters, fishermen, etc., to call for help.

Opponents argue that the a new system still would not provide enough revenue to fill the funding gap for search and rescues.  Opponents, including many search and rescue volunteers, have also expressed concern that the system would discourage individuals from calling for help when it is needed.

2013 Legislation

In January 2013 House Minority Leader Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) introduced HB 256, a bill that would establish a minimum flat fee for search and rescue, unless the individual rescued possesses 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 decided to wait to act on the bill until the 2014 legislative session.  The House passed the bill on February 6, 2014.  HB 256 now faces the Senate.

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1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate

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Do you think the state should pay the bill for rescuing hikers?  Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) sponsored HB 256, a 2013 bill that would charge hikers a flat fee for rescue. The House passed the bill February 6, 2014, and HB 256 now faces the Senate.


March 18, 2014
WMUR: NH Senate panel considers hike safe card program
Concord Monitor: NH Senate panel considers hike safe card program
March 17, 2014
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH Senate panel considers hike safe card program
February 6, 2014
Union Leader: 'Hike Safe' card would provide rescue revenues
February 2, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: House voting on 'Hike Safe' card
January 29, 2014
NHPR: Michigan hiker charged $9,300 for Franconia Ridge rescue
January 22, 2014
Union Leader: Card would cover NH wilderness rescue costs
January 20, 2014
Seacoast Online: House panel weighs hike safe card program
January 19, 2014
Valley News: N.H. House panel mulls Hike Safe card program
January 9, 2014
Eagle Tribune: N.H. moves forward with hike safe card
NHPR: House backs 'Hike Safe' cards to cover costs of potential rescues
January 8, 2014
Seacoast Online: N.H. House approves hike safe card program
January 2, 2014
Union Leader: NH card would forgive hikers from paying back rescue costs
December 26, 2013
NHPR: N.H. lawmakers float idea of canoe, kayak fee to boost revenue
November 6, 2013
Citizen of Laconia: Should hikers help pay for search and rescue?
October 22, 2013
Union Leader: Some stranded hikers rescued by NH Fish & Game not so thankful after the bill
October 14, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Bills aim to tackle search, rescue
October 12, 2013
Concord Monitor: Fish and Game: We can’t pay for search and rescue alone
October 8, 2013
NHPR: N.H. Fish and Game: Hikers, be prepared this Fall
September 14, 2013
Concord Monitor: NH routinely outspends search-and-rescue budget
May 29, 2013

Nashua Telegraph: Brown researchers find many NH hikers unprepared
February 8, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: NH Fish and Game could use rescue of its own
February 4, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Tales of backcountry rescues: Cellphones, mountains in winter, broken legs without warning
February 2, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Who pays for search, rescue and recovery?
February 1, 2013
Union Leader: Billing hikers: The future of search and rescue?
Nashua Telegraph: Legislators weigh 'menu' of options to fund search and rescue missions
Eagle Tribune: Hikers rescued in NH could pay fee
January 31, 2013

NHPR: Hiker rescue bill gets hearing
Union Leader: Lost, found ... and billed for rescue costs
January 30, 2013
NHPR: Volunteer rescue groups oppose charging all hikers for rescues
January 27, 2013
Union Leader: Hearing January 31 on Fish and Game Search & Rescue funding proposals
January 12, 2013
Union Leader: Bill would set fees for rescuing hikers
January 4, 2013
Conway Daily Sun: Proposal would bill hikers for cost of searches and rescues
December 26, 2012
NHPR: Bill proposes mandatory fines for all hiker rescues
December 17, 2012

Seacoast Online: Hikers rescued in NH would pay a fee under bill
October 24, 2012
Union Leader: Fish and Game warns hikers to prepare for season
October 15, 2012
Union Leader: Darkness creates problems for hikers, Fish and Game during weekend
October 8, 2012
Union Leader: Conservation Officers Respond to Multiple Weekend Hiker Rescues
August 19, 2012
Union Leader: John Harrigan: Search, rescue missions would be funny, but...
August 11, 2012
Union Leader: Skipped rescue call nets fine
August 1, 2012

Boston.com: Hiker, 84, rescued in Ossipee Mountains
July 16, 2012
Union Leader: Summer brings usual rash of wilderness rescue operations
July 8, 2012
WMUR: Officials: Busiest time of year for mountain rescue
July 2, 2012
Union Leader: Hiker who went off trail will be bill for rescue
June 21, 2012
NHPR: Fish and Game Department reminds hikers to trek safely
June 16, 2012
Union Leader: Paying the tab for rescuing unprepared hikers is an uphill climb
May 16, 2012
Union Leader: No flashlight? Forget about that hike
May 9, 2012
Union Leader: 'Fed up' searcher says hiker should pay
April 22, 2012

Conway Daily Sun: Rescuers question $7K bill for lost hiker
December 30, 2011
The Green Hiker: Hiking in NH?
September 24, 2009
USA Today: Warning, don't get lost in NH
December 31, 2008
Bangor Daily News: NH toughens up negligent hiker law