Supporters and opponents packed a committee room for the first hearing on a bill that would charge a fee to anyone needing a backcountry rescue.The proposed law would be the first of its kind in the nation.
New Hampshire Fish and Game performs more than 150 rescues each year at a cost of $300,000. Right now, that’s funded by hunting and fishing licenses, and snowmobile registrations. But a new bill would make those needing assistance pay a portion of the cost.
Fees could run as high as a $1000 if a helicopter is needed.
Senator David Watters, a co-sponsor of the bill, says Fish and Game’s budget is already stretched.
“The funding system we have in place simply cannot be sustained.”
Opinions were split among the crowd.
Many of the volunteers that assist in search and rescue spoke out against the bill, warning that it could lead to stranded hikers second-guessing a call for help.
And Bill Aughton, with NH Outdoors Council, warns the law could be bad for tourism.
“We say, come to our state, it is beautiful and natural. And take a walk. But my goodness, if you make a mistake, it is going to cost you a grand.”
Currently, Fish and Game can attempt to recoup the cost of a rescue for a hiker they deem wasn’t adequately prepared.