State legislators in Wyoming have proposed a bill that will give sheriff’s the capability to bill people for search and rescue (SAR) missions. Last ski season alone the state had over 312 SAR cases, half of which were in four of the states 23 counties. The charges could go from a full to partial charge, based upon case-by-case scenarios.
State Rep. Keith Gingery, who sponsors the bill, stated, “We’re really good at rescuing people in Teton County. Sometimes things just go wrong, but sometimes, people are doing things that are really dumb. These are the people we would be seeking full or partial repayment from. The cost of missions and maintaining Teton County’s extensive SAR operations (TCSAR) has become burdensome on the county’s funds, last year Teton County alone spent $14,000 for rescue of snowmobilers. ”
TCSAR is unlike any other team, the county pays for a communications center and leases a helicopter for instant deployment, a hefty cost of $20,000 a month. In most cases they also reimburse sheriff departments for rescues, that money is donated from hunters, snowmobilers and other outdoorsmen. Were as typical SAR teams request for some sort of military assistance for air searches. The bill has sparked an array of discussion within Wyoming; however, if the bill does pass Wyoming will join six other states that allow some sort of billing regarding search and rescue missions: New Hampshire, Hawaii, Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado. Each state roughly all starts around $500 based upon if the person had capability of making situation safer or if the backcountry user was incapable to do so.
In the eyes of Tim Ciocarlan a volunteer of 20 years with TCSAR doesn’t support the bill himself, saying, “I don’t know where you draw the line. What is reasonable action? Who’s going to make the call: dumb or an accident? That is a very difficult decision. My personal belief is not to charge for rescue, but as rescues increase, it is an enormous burden on taxpayers and the county.”
The ultimate question is should a legal solution to backcountry rescue be implanted, and if so, do they only charge people who required rescue because of poor planning, or do they charge people who needed rescue through no fault of their own? If passed, the bill is believed to be in effect in March 2013.