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New Hampshire Hike Safe Cards

I have read a handful of threads on Trailspace related to search and rescue operations in the White Mountains. The most recent one being about the unfortunate situation that occurred a few weekends ago.

As I read these topics and the included links to newspaper articles I always see a brief statement about some of the costs of the operation.

In New Hampshire, Search and Rescue is coordinated and carried out under the authority of the Fish and Game Department. There are a number of volunteer organizations that assist Fish and Game (full disclosure I volunteer with the Pemi Valley Search and Rescue team), but conservation officers are always present and in charge and because of this there is a large burden on the Fish and Game budget.

Historically the majority of funding for Fish and Game came from the sale of Fishing, Hunting, and OHRV licenses. These funds would be spread across all of the various Fish and Game responsibilities.

Recently, the the number of SAR operations began to increase and Fish and Game wanted to determine why this was the case. It was found that the vast majority of search and rescue operations were for hikers and backpackers. This highlighted an interesting issue. The funding was coming from Hunters, Fishermen, and Off-roaders, while it was being spent on hikers and backpackers who were not being asked to contribute.

To solve this unique problem, Fish and Game worked with the legislature last year to pass a bill that would develop a voluntary Hike Safe card that could be purchased by hikers with the funds going towards Search and Rescue costs.

The cards cost $25 for an individual or $35 for a family. According to the program:

"Any person determined by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to have acted negligently and requiring a search and rescue response by the Department shall be liable to the Department for the reasonable cost of the Department’s expenses for such search and rescue response. Unless the person shows proof of possessing a current year:

  • NH Hunting or Fishing license
  • NH Off Highway Recreational Vehicle or Snowmobile Registration
  • NH Boat Registration
  • A voluntary Hike Safe Card"

The card is not a free ride if it is determined that a person was reckless or intentionally created a dangerous situation.

I know that there are many opinions on both sides of this issue, and I am not starting this thread as an attempt to spark a heated debate. I am simply passing along the link so that anyone interested in purchasing a Hike Safe card can do so:

Even though I never plan on needing it, I purchased one for my family because I like the idea of supporting an underfunded organization that provides a valuable service.

Its insurance, some people have it, some dont. I am very happy to see it be voluntary... for now. I am sure that now that its implemented its only a matter of time before it becomes "required" like a hiking/backpacking license. That i would not be ok with.

So I would say at this present time I would very timidly, and warily support it.

I certainly see the benefits of this. These days, so much of our National and State parks are underfunded. Add to that, many SAR organizations are made up of volunteers. Going out in often horrible conditions, it would be good to have added and needed funding.

Liked the idea when I first heard it. Loved it more when I found out my fishing license meant I didn't need to get one.

Self funding the F&G's efforts on behalf of hikers just makes sense even if it didn't come with a "get out of the woods free if you didn't do something totally stupid" card. Beyond that, paying fees to the dept makes you a stakeholder in future discussions. Considering how much control that dept has over recreational lands that may be the biggest return most folks see out of this.

August 11, 2020
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