Adventurers buy cards to subsidize searches
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) – If you get into trouble, they will come. And when it’s over, they won’t hand you a bill.Teams that conduct rescue operations across the state have received a financial boost from increased sales of Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue cards.The cards are for hikers, cross-country skiers, cyclists and others who venture outdoors but don’t otherwise contribute directly to a state fund dedicated to search-and-rescue operations.
The fund is primarily supported through 25-cent surcharges on hunting and fishing licenses and permits for boats and off-road vehicles. Since 2002, when the cards became available, revenue from statewide sales has grown from $18,000 to more than $66,000 in 2005.That means more funding to reimburse search and rescue teams, and to cover some of the cost of training and equipment.The revenue growth reflects increased use of the backcountry by people other than hunters, said Kathay Rennels, a member of the state’s Search and Rescue Council, which awards grants from the Search and Rescue Fund to rescue groups for training and equipment.Many search and rescue groups across the state are nonprofit organizations run by volunteers who work with local sheriff’s offices during rescue operations. Members are eligible for reimbursement for food and fuel related to missions.
“A lot of the time, these folks don’t even put in for reimbursement,” said Rennels, who also is a Larimer county commissioner. “They are dedicated to what they do and don’t worry about the money. So anything we can do to help them and thank them for their service is wonderful.”The cards, which are available at many retail outlets that sell sports and outdoor equipment, cost $3 for one year or $12 for five years.Two-thirds of the revenue from card sales goes to the fund, while vendors keep one-third, said Steve Denney of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which administers the program.The program was started in response to concerns from hunting and fishing license holders who were contributing the lion’s share of revenue to the rescue fund, despite the fact that most search operations aided people participating in other outdoor activities, such as hiking, Denney said.
After a slow start, sales of the cards are starting to take off, Denney said.The card does not work like an insurance program. Rescuers will help hikers and skiers when they are in trouble whether or not they have search and rescue cards, Fink said.No one is charged for the cost of a rescue, although rescued individuals or their insurance companies are liable for costs related to medical care delivered outside of the rescue, such as a helicopter flight to a hospital.Maj. Bill Nelson, who oversees local search and rescue operations in Larimer County, said a typical rescue costs about $100 to $300, primarily for food and fuel.Vail, Colorado