Hiker Rescue Funding

Citizens Count Editor

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 they were found to have been negligent.

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 would not be billed for rescue. This option was implemented in 2014. 

"Hike Safe Cards" can now be purchased by hikers for $25, 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.



"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

"New Hampshire should continue the Hike Safe Card program." 

  • 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 way for them to make 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).

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

"New Hampshire should eliminate the Hike Safe Card program." 

  • Rescues are a public service and hikers should not have to bear the cost .
  • The system of charging hikers for a card will cost money to implement while still not providing enough revenue to manage rescue costs.


In Committee

Allows the General Fund of all tax dollars to pay for search and rescue operations. This bill also authorizes the Executive Director of Fish and Game to invest in technology necessary to enable the solicitation and collection of donations through private businesses to pay for search and rescue.

Killed in the House

Requires a portion of meals and room tax revenue to be credited to the Fish and Game search and rescue fund.

Signed by Governor

Establishes an annual $10 registration fee for canoes and kayaks. $3.50 of every fee would go to the search and rescue fund and $3.50 would go to the lake restoration and preservation fund, and $3 would pay for processing. The Senate amended the bill to instead create a commission to study creating a Boat Safe Card, which like the Hike Safe Card, would protect boaters from being billed for search and rescue.

Killed in the House

Requires the state to reimburse towns which conduct search and rescue missions, using money from the Search and Rescue Fund.

Killed in the House

Requires $1 from the rental of each canoe, kayak, ski craft, or watercraft to go to the fish and game search and rescue fund.

Killed in the House

Repeals the $1 fee associated with the registration of OHRVs, snowmobiles, and boats, which is credited to the search and rescue fund, and appropriates $200,000 from the general fund for search and rescue.

Signed by Governor

Adds individuals under a family guardianship to the definition of family for the Hike Safe Card.

Signed by Governor

Clarifies that the Hike Safe Card does not protect a hiker who is reckless (rather than negligent) or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Signed by Governor

Establishes the Hike Safe Card, a $25 card that insures a hiker against the cost of a rescue, even if the hiker is negligent. This bill also establishes a committee to study sustainable funding options for the Fish and Game Department.

Signed by Governor

Creates a committee to study who should pay for search and rescue operations.

Should hikers contribute to the search and rescue fund, whether or not they are negligent?


Bill Aughton
- Conway

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 9:19pm

The new hike safe card, which will become law in January 2015, reverses a long attempted effort, spearheaded by Col Ronald Alie (spl?) some years ago to reduce hiker rescues. 

His efforts made any negligent act by a hiker, that resulted in a rescue mission, subject to charges for the cost of the NH Fish and Game's participation, with the hope that if faced with substantial costs for inappropriate acts, hikers would better prepare, with the resulting decrease in rescues. It was totally aimed at reducing rescues - not making money!

The voluntary hike safe card, which sells for $25 is an effort by the Fish & Game dept. to make money to offset some of their financial difficulties. Which if it stood alone is laudable.

The regrettable side of the card is that it lets those negligent hikers off the hook for significant costs for a mere $25.

This is a major flaw. Responsible, well prepared hikers don't need a card because they will not be charged for a rescue - unless they are negligent or reckless!!

As a result I cannot support the card as a means of supporting mountain rescues in NH.

I would suggest that if a hiker is responsible and wants to truly support NH mountain rescue efforts, they would do better by sending a $25 donation,or more, to one of the unpaid, totally volunteer rescue groups, such as; Mountain Rescue Service, Pemigewasset SAR, Upper Valley SAR, Androscoggin Valley SAR or New England Canine. These groups and others, supply their own equipment, give up their free time in the spirit of the mountains,and raise their own money to supplement training and equipment costs. The New Hampshire Outdoor Council is also a  source to send donations to, as it supports all outdoor rescue groups in the state by making grants where needed. 


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Issue Status

Rep. David Love wants to send $200,000 from the state's general fund to help pay for search and rescue operations. The bill would also charge the Fish and Game Department with setting up a system for collecting donations from private businesses. Have an opinion about search and rescue funding? Contact your elected officials and share your thoughts.


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