Hiker Negligence - Issue Summary

How should the state fund hiker rescues?

Negligent Hiker Law
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 Legislation

HB 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 Legislation

SB 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.

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If you are interested in negligent hiker laws in NH and want to take action here are some choices:

  •  If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on How to Take Action.
  • Contact one of the organizations listed in Learn More. These groups represent the pro or con positions of issues.
  • Contact a government official as follows:

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

2. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan

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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. In the final days of May 2014 the House and Senate agreed on a final version of HB 256 that establishes a "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.

News

November 16, 2014
Union Leader: Fish & Game seeks ways to stay afloat
November 12, 2014
Eagle Tribune: Hike Safe law takes effect Jan. 1
November 4, 2014
Concord Monitor: Legislative recommendations for Fish and Game revenue include new fees
September 28, 2014
Union Leader: Rescued hiker fights bill in NH Supreme Court
September 9, 2014
NHPR: Fish and Game holding hearing on 'hike safe' card
September 8, 2014
Foster's Daily Democrat: Officials to hold hearing on "hike safe" cards
May 24, 2014
NHPR: Deal reached on hike safe card program
May 21, 2014
Conway Daily Sun: Voluntary hiker card on fast track
May 16, 2014
Concord Monitor: NH Senate approves hiking card that will help fund search-and-rescue operations
May 2, 2014
Seacoast Online: NH hike safe card program gets Senate approval
April 29, 2014
Concord Monitor: Senate to consider hike safe card program
NHPR: NH Senate voting on 'hike safe' cards to cover rescue costs
April 28, 2014
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH Senate considering hike safe card program
April 15, 2014
Union Leader: AMC ready for start of 2014 season in NH's outdoors
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