Hiker Rescue Funding

LFDA Editor

In 2014, NH passed a bill to establish "Hike Safe Cards" that can be purchased by hikers, 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.

Proponents of the current rescue system argue that:

  • Irresponsible hikers should bear the financial toll of their actions
  • 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 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)

Opponents believe that:

  • 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


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 unless proven negligent. 

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 found negligent.


"For" Position

"Against" Position


Signed by Governor

Establishing 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

Creating 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

In 2014 Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed HB 256, which establishes a "Hike Safe Card."  The $25 card guarantees a hiker that he/she will not be charged the cost of a rescue, regardless of negligence.  As of August 2015, sales of the Hike Safe Card had raised $60,000 for the Search and Rescue Fund.

Rep. Gene Chandler and Rep. Michael Brewster have both requested 2016 bills that would modify the Hike Safe Card system.  The text of those bills is not yet available.


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