The New Hampshire legislature is in the process of moving forward with House Bill 256 which includes the creation of a New Hampshire “Hike Safe” card which would protect hikers that require emergency support during a hike, against fees associated with the rescue mission. Here are five things you need to know, as of today, regarding this proposal…please note that the bill is in flux and the facts may change in the future.
- The “Hike Safe” card is totally voluntary. In no way are hikers required to purchase this card to hike on New Hampshire trails. The goal is to promote this card as a piece of equipment that a responsible hiker will obtain in an effort to give back to NH Fish & Game, in an effort to counteract the emergency response budget (which apparently always is exceeded).
- The cost of this card was last published to be $25 for an individual or $35 for a family. Based on what I’ve read, a majority of this amount will go directly into the NH Fish & Game emergency response budget, with a small portion going toward administrative fees (i.e. $3 or so, not sure of the exact amount).
- From everything I’ve read the card will relinquish you of any rescue fees that may be incurred, regardless of how your emergency arose. That means, even if you were negligent and/or stupid (started hiking the Bonds at 2pm, with shorts and a cotton tee-shirt in November, with nothing but a cell phone, and decided to bushwhack off the trail and got lost) resulting in a rescue, all you have to do is present this card and it’s a “get out of jail free” card for you. It’s not clear yet if situations where circumstances may not be the hiker’s fault and a hiker can’t present a card, if they’ll be liable for the fees.
- If you already have a valid (current) New Hampshire hunting or fishing license, a New Hampshire boat registration or New Hampshire Snowmobile/ATV registration, you can present one of these in lieu of a Hike Safe card in the event you need to be rescued. I believe the logic behind this is that a portion of the cost of each of these items is already contributed to the emergency response budget so you’ve already contributed your part as an outdoor enthusiast and makes you exempt from having to purchase a Hike Safe card.
- Based on some numbers I saw on nhliberty.org, I’ve estimated that the average spend (before fees are collected) on NH Fish & Game rescues (including hikers, hunters, snowmobilers, etc.) is approximately $133,000 per year. (Note, there are approximately 35 rescues per year over $1,500…I wasn’t sure how to quantify this, so I used $2,000. This number may be much higher which would bump the overall number.) Currently, the person being rescued is charged a flat fee depending on the cost of the rescue (it’s a range typically) and I believe it is a bit dependent on the circumstances and fault. Often, however, it’s published that these fees go unpaid, which is crazy (opinion, not fact)!!! Also, rescue costs have gone up recently as the New Hampshire National Guard used to deploy a rescue helicopter free of charge and called them training missions when needed…however, they now charge us and there are NO free helicopters!!!
My Opinion: I think it’s a good idea. As a hiker, I always think of ways to give back. If this is one way I can help the New Hampshire Fish & Game and possibly fellow hikers, I think it’s a small price to pay. Also, when looking at the fact that the hunters, ATV riders, etc. are funding these emergency response activities, and hikers are a large percentage of the persons rescued annually, I think it’s only fair that hikers contribute too. All that being said, I don’t agree with it being a 100% get out of jail free card. I strongly believe that if you’ve put yourself or others in a dangerous situation negligently or recklessly by being unprepared for the conditions you’re trekking into, shame on you, and you should incur the cost of the rescue! What are your thoughts?
Image from NH Fish and Game Website
Sources of Information for this Post:
The Conway Daily Sun
The Union Leader
New Hampshire Liberty Alliance
House Bill 256 Contents
New Hampshire Fish and Game (Image/Logo)