Rep. Jonathan Manley has requested a 2018 bill that would place some of the rental fees for canoes and kayaks in the state search and rescue fund.
The text of that bill is not yet public, but it reflects a longstanding debate over whether canoers and kayakers should contribute to Fish and Game Department funding.
Current funding for Fish and Game
Most of the funding for the Fish and Game Department comes from various license fees and the federal government. The state also sells the $25 Hike Safe Card, which gives hikers some protection from getting billed if they need rescue. (/issues/hiker-rescue-funding)
The Fish and Game Department still struggles to make ends meet, however, particularly when it comes to paying for search and rescue.
Should canoers, kayakers pitch in?
A 2014 study committee on fish and game funding argued that canoers and kayakers should contribute some money, through a license or other fee. Those small boaters benefit from boat access sites, water rescues, and wildlife protection without paying the state.
Right now the burden of search and rescue funding falls on hunters, fishers, snowmobilers, and OHRV operators.
Restricting rights to public waters
Opponents of a canoe and kayak fee argue that residents have a natural right to enjoy the waters of the state without paying for it.
Opponents also note that kayakers, canoers, and all other motorized boaters require a fraction of search and rescue services compared to hikers.
Do you think canoers and kayakers should somehow contribute to the search and rescue fund? Share your opinion in the comments below.