Hiker Rescue Funding

LFDA 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 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

"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

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

  • Rescues are a public service and hikers should not have to bear the cost .
  • These types of laws will deter people from calling for help due to the potential bill they will have to shoulder.
  • The system of charging hikers for a card will cost money to implement while still not providing enough revenue to manage rescue costs.


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

Sen. Jeb Bradley, an avid hiker, plans to sponsor legislation to charge negligent hikers for part of the costs of a rescue, even if they carry a Hike Safe Card. Read more.

Rep. Tom Buco has requested a 2018 bill "relative to reimbursement to municipalities for certain search and rescue operations." The details of that bill are not yet public.


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