rescueIt may mean fees for hikers. It may mean anyone rescued pays a fine. But one way or another, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department wants hikers and climbers to help pay for the state’s search and rescue missions.

On Thursday, the New Hampshire House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget deficit for Fish and Game’s search and rescue activities. For the past two years, that deficit has exceeded $200,000.

Currently, the only mandated funding comes from a $1.00 fee collected for each boat, snow machine and OHRV registered in New Hampshire, which gets deposited into the Search and Rescue Fund.

According to the Fish and Game Department, over the past six fiscal years, they have conducted a total of 957 reportable search and rescue missions, costing roughly $1.8 million. An average of 57 percent of all of those missions were rescues of hikers and climbers. And, according to Fish and Game, just 14 percent of all search and rescue missions were conducted for a combination of hunters, anglers, boaters and OHRV/ATV riders during this period. But, they say, it is these people who are paying 100 percent of the costs for search and rescue missions.

A 2008 law allows Fish and Game to bill people responsible for an “avoidable” rescue. But, according to department officials, only a handful of rescues fall into that category each year, and, of those that do, the state is often unable to collect reimbursement. (READ MORE)