National Park Search and Rescue: Should the Rescued Help Pay the Bills?

Jenny Lake rangers Jack McConnell and Marty Vidak set ropes, anchors and pulleys to facilitate rescue of climbers hit by lightning on the Grand Teton in July 2003. NPS photo by Leo Larson.

A two-week search for a missing hiker in Yosemite National Park. A search for a missing snowshoer on Mount Rainier. Recovery of bodies from falls in Grand Teton National Park. A week-long, and unsuccessful, search for a missing 8-year-old at Crater Lake National Park.

Each year, thousands of search-and-rescue (SAR) missions are launched across the National Park System. Some are to recover bodies, others respond to boating accidents, caving misadventures, climbing mishaps, fishing trips gone awry, swimming accidents, and, of course, lost hikers.

During 2007, the National Park Service reported 3,593 SAR incidents. Of those, 136 involved fatalities. Nineteen subjects remain unaccounted for. Another 2,566 individuals sustained no injuries. There were 887 helicopter rescues, six missions requiring divers, 694 that involved horses or mules.

The cost of those missions? $4,735,424.12. How much did the Park Service recover from those who were the focus of the missions?

Nothing.

At times those who are rescued do donate to the park in question, and the Park Service can go to court to seek renumeration if it believes gross negligence played a role. But as a general rule the agency does not bill for SARs.

Granted, accidents do happen, more often than not, in fact. But there are other incidents where common sense seemingly failed to kick in and no doubt others where backcountry travelers, armed either with cell phones or personal locater beacons bit off more than they could safely chew because help was just a call (or push of the button) away.

Should the Park Service draw the line on free rescues? At the very least, should it bill for those where obvious disregard for safety played a role? It's a question that's been debated more than once, and which, for now, is answered with a resounding "No."

But is it time to reopen the debate?

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which earlier this year dispatched a SAR team to Rainbow Falls Cave to rescue four would-be spelunkers who literally got in over their heads, Bob Miller sums up the Park Service's approach to billing folks for being rescued.

"We have never pursued reimbursement for SAR cost, although we often get reimbursed for resource damage or facilities damaged by a visitor," says Ranger Miller, who figures it cost the park about $2,000 to rescue the four. "It's very difficult to get anybody to pay for something that they have not agreed to pay for up front."

Mark Hnat, a Yellowstone ranger who earlier this year was detailed to the Park Service's Washington headquarters to fill in as the branch chief of emergency services, says federal agencies as a whole that are involved in SARs don't charge for their services.

"We're part of a compact with other federal search-and-rescue entities, which is part of the national search and rescue plan," Ranger Hnat explains. "That national search-and-rescue committee includes DOI, the Park Service; Department of Defense, the Air Force folks; Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, and; a couple of other agencies. It's the policy of that organization not to charge for search-and-rescue."

While costs of these missions continue to increase, the question about billing for rescues is heavy with complexities involving liabilities, he added.

"Trying to figure out the difference between what's a SAR and what's not a SAR and whose fault is it and how much liability is there ... it gets to be a pretty drawn-out process," the ranger explained. "And then how much are we going to be placing blame?"

If the agency did place blame, said Ranger Hnat, "that becomes record and now somebody's looking at somebody's reputation and back and forth. All kinds of things really make it a pretty complex operation. No other agencies are doing that at this point that I'm aware of, so it'd be a hard precedent to start."

Butch Farabee, who during his 34-year Park Service career participated in more than 1,000 SARs in such parks as Yosemite, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon and details some of those in Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite and Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, understands why the question of billing SAR targets arises from time to time.

"Of course, leaving their brains at home is the No. 1 problem for most SAR (not quite true for plane wrecks, suicides, and the such)," he notes. "Is it time to charge? This has been debated for many years. It also came to light when Alaska congressmen got into the picture over people who climb Mount McKinley and need to be rescued. I think in a perfect world -- ie., where I or some SAR guru could wave a magic wand -- I think some charging would take place. However, we do not live in a perfect world.

"It is easy to say that when people go caving or whatever without experience, training, letting someone know where they are going and all of that, then the outcry is to 'Bill Them!' That example is at the polarized edge of the controversy. Where it gets stickier is when you have a plane wreck, car wreck, suicide, little kid wanders away from a campground, a worried father of a 21-year-old calls to say his son has not returned only to find out that the 21-year-old had not intended to be back at a certain time and was in fact perfectly fine," adds Mr. Farabee. "This is where it always gets stickier, those incidents where it is not perfectly black and white."

Too, he points out, "getting reimbursed also supposes we are putting a price on people's lives. It will also possibly influence an Incident Commander on making decisions that are not appropriate for the incident."

Rick Smith, who also performed more than a few SAR missions during his three decades with the Park Service, thinks it'd be wrong to begin charging for rescues.

"It's just one more way to exclude people of lesser means from the parks," says Mr. Smith. "I'm not a big fan of the idea, although I see some merit in asking people who do really high risk things --climbing Denali-- to buy some kind of insurance. But I am very reluctant to put a price tag on adventure."

He also would give a pass to those who wind up over their heads.

"A person who has lived in L.A. all his/her life and goes to Yosemite for the first time does not really understand the power of running water, or the fact that it's easier to climb up rocks than it is to descend," says Mr. Smith. "What seems exceptionally stupid may be nothing more than lack of experience. How do we price gathering experience?"

Now, at Denali National Park and Preserve, which like Grand Teton sees a lot of climbing SARs, rescued climbers are not billed for the missions. But those attempting either Mount McKinley or Mount Foraker are charged $200 per person "to provide educational materials to them ahead of time and to support the resource protection (Clean Mountain Can) and other operations we have on the mountain," says Denali spokeswoman Kris Fister. "Climbers do have to pay for the air or land ambulance service from Talkeetna to Anchorage. But we get them off the mountain."

Almost a decade ago, in the wake of the well-publicized 1996 climbing accident on Mount Everest that inspired Jon Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air, and ensuing accidents and rescues on Mount Rainier and Mount McKinley, the then-executive director of the American Alpine Club produced a study on Rescue Cost Recovery (attached below) in Denali.


Many involved in the debate, including the rescue community itself, feel that any rescue cost recovery alternatives must be very carefully considered, Charley Shimanski wrote. Rescuers are concerned that a charge for rescue will lead to delays in the call for help, thus causing more complicated rescues and putting both rescuers and victims in greater risk. Land managers are concerned that charging for rescue will result in administrative hassles associated with trying to collect from the uninsured. Military aviation units see no reason to recover costs, since they use civilian SAR missions as valuable training exercises. National Park Service officials realize that mandating a charge for rescue will likely create a legal "duty to rescue."

In Europe, a slightly different approach is taken, as insurance is available to backcountry skiers to cover rescue costs.

Should the Park Service require insurance coverage for backcountry travelers? It's a good question, one that could help offset the agency's costs, but one that possibly could generate more problems by lending backcountry travelers a measure of reckless bravado as they might figure someone's waiting to pull them out of trouble.

AttachmentSize
Rescue Cost Recovery.pdf338.09 KB

Comments

Yes, the idiots that climb mountains and go wilderness trail walking unprepared for emergencies should have to pay for S&R!!
The year I climbed Mt.s St. Helens, I had to apply for a permit. Log in when I started the climb and log out when I returned (i believe they also wanted some contact information also). I thing that was good requirements.

These idiots that do these assinine things, do not provide expected start and stop and possible routes to someone should be fined along with paying for the S&R.

A cell phone does not do it! And, at today's cost Noone should go into the wilderness without a personal sat. tracking device.

A homebody in the flat plains of penn's woods.

It depends on the circumstance, but there are irresponsible people who will do stupid things because they know that someone will rescue them. Those people should pay.

The answer to this question is obvious. If I get injured or sick in my home, is the ambulance ride to the hospital free?

Why shouldn't each participant who uses a rescue service pay? Why should taxpayers around the country pay for someone else's self-inflicted recreational problems?

I think that there should be a $5 fee charged to all users or carload to cover search rescues. Any money left over would go towards next's years budget for the park.

Why not require insurance? When I was in Colorado, the local rescue squad in Pagosa Springs sold hiking insurance recognized state wide for $5 for two years. It covered the costs of all ground based SAR and the first $3000 of a helicopter extraction. I gladly paid the fee (heck, I would have thrown $5 in the pot as a donation), thankfully never needed the policy and went home. It seemed like a good private sector solution.

Since then, I've looked for and found various types of mountain climbing and travel insurance but only rarely come across hiking insurance that would cover SAR in national parks. Post big signs at the entrance stating that people who are not covered will be billed for SAR. Set up internet kiosks in welcome centers where 3-5 companies can offer policies. Take a 15% cut. Allocate 5% to SAR in park and 10% to trail maintainenance system wide.

I agree with Montana Jim. 5$ or whatever seems reasonable per entrance fee. Although in the case of foolishness or negligence, The park should definitely go after the beneficiaries of any S&R's to recoup the costs. As far as a safety net providing a false sense of bravado, I'm fairly certain that you can't accurately predict what will make an idiot (or anyone else suffering from momentary poor judgement) act in a reckless manner. Some people just do stupid things without even thinking twice about who will clean up the mess.

No.
What a great way to use my taxes, military etc.
I deeply thank all the SAR volunteers and urge all to donate their time and or money in support for their selfless service.
Americans have become so fixated on the $ it makes me hurl.
The human thirst for exploration and adventure is righteous, and can not be characterized by terms like idiot, reckless, irresponsible, foolishness, asinine or a dollar amount.
Anyway..... that is how I feel about this nonsense.

It is great to see people want to explore and if they get into trouble then maybe there should be a fee, but then why should we pay for someone who smokes that gets cancer or some overweight person who has heart trouble etc. Get the drift.

I actually cover some of these big adventure "high risk" expeditions on my blog. I have also covered quite a few SAR events as well. I understand the need for SAR, I also understand that there will be those less experienced attempting to do what they never should. I think it is a very fine line to charge someone for rescue, when that same person is not charged by the Police or Fire departments for car accidents ect. These agencies that you speak of, including the National Park Services are already being paid to provide these services by tax payer dollars. We pay to support all of these causes, but then government steps in and allocates the money to where it seems fit...unfortunately it is not our National Parks. On a personal level, I feel that this is a political issue and not so much a public vs. federal agency issue. Until change is made in the government, or someone steps in that would like to promote the parks better, I don't think the funding will come. Unfortunately, the funding is the reason why the Parks are a bit iffy when it comes to this issue. If they were being supported correctly, the infrastructure would be there and we would not have to have this same discussion every spring. In 2006 three climbers were lost on Mt. Hood. That drew National attention, which of course, put this in the spotlight once more. To me, it isn't an argument of should the rescuee have to pay. but rather when our government will start funding the Parks systems correctly. Bill George Bush, not the local Joe.

There are documented cases of persons delaying the call for help because they feared being charged for the cost of the rescue mission. The value of a human life far outweighs the monetary cost of the rescue, and the rescuers put their lives at risk with full knowledge of the potential consequences.

The "pay for rescue" debate will never go away. Issues or questions such as these below must be considered:

1. Who makes the final determination concerning costs involved? And who is responsible for payment?

2. Were the injuries sustained caused by a foolish act, negligence, or defying authority?

3. Or did the injured party have the skills to save themselves, but because of objective dangers could not do so?

Once these options have been evaluated, only then can a fair and equitable decision be reached.

Rescues should not come with a price. If they do, and people are aware of this; they will often try to rescue themselves and end up making the situation far, far worse (by getting more lost or injured) than it would have been. I'm not making this up, this has happened before.
Furthermore, as stated in the article, the dividing line between negligence and simple lack of experience/bad luck is thin to non existant. Either all rescues are free or none are.

The problem lies when an idiot Father (Or I guess a Mother could do it too) takes his kids out to the wilderness, totally unprepared, and gets horribly lost. If he KNOWS that he is going to have to blow his childrens college fund on a rescue, he may try to find his way out on his own and thus kill his entire family. People who have already done stupid things to land themselves in the position of needing a SAR in the first place are more likely to do even stupidier things to get themselves out of the mess rather then paying for it, at the cost of the minors who are traveling with them. If we make people start to pay, our numbers of missing and fatalities will undoubtedly rise.

I would suspect that somewhere between not charging at all, and charging everyone the full cost for SAR, is a viable solution. Anyone who thinks either extreme is the only answer is a fool. Some states have imposed an additional fee on recreational lisences and are also selling hiker certificates to help offset the cost. This is most definitely charging for SAR but no one seems to mind and the monies collected have helped a lot. Instead of trying to impress everyone with how well you think you can argue either point here, lets start working on a logical solution that adresses both problems. It's probably easier that you think.

Some sort of insurance program would seem to alleviate the concerns for all involved. It seems like an easy and all encompasing solution to the problems. What am I missing here?

I just read that the state of Nevada is asking Steve Fossett's widow to reimburse them the nearly one million dollar cost of searching for his lost plane. Hopefully, out of the multi-million dollar estate she will do so voluntarily. Search and rescue, even for wealthy private pilots, is not usually charged. But...

I seem to recall that there is a warning sign or information near the Bright Angel trail that if you get down into the canyon and have difficulty walking back up, the helicopter rescue will cost X amount of dollars. Does anyone else remember this?

That seems to be one solution. Inform people that SARs in certain known dangerous places will be billed to you. That would give pause to those who travel into those areas unprepared. Backcountry permits could include a fee to cover SARs. And certainly those who engage in very perilous activities like climbing El Capitan, or ice climbing on mountains should be told that SARs will be charged. People who fall on regular hiking trails that aren't inherently dangerous should be given SAR rescues free of charge.

A fee charged to all who enter the parks for the convenience of a small percentage who require the service is simply not acceptable. Why should the general public assist in paying your personal auto insurance deductible if you get into a wreck? Granted we all pay the price in higher premiums, but that's a debate for another time.

Personal assistance insurance is an interesting notion. But again, I don't feel personally responsible for paying inflated premiums based on a careless, irresponsible few who are the basis for the rates set initially for all of us. A gradual sliding scale based on competence level, experience, preparedness, etc. would be a thought. But for the time being, I don't see why we're even discussing the issue. You gamble and lose, you pay for your mistakes. Parents should be more prone to concentrating on the welfare of their charges. As might group leaders from all backgrounds. Individuals should be made to realize that technology is NOT the answer to all of life's issues. Irresponsibility should be treated with the same callousness of consequences as the ignorance from which it stems. These Guardian Angels who are the SAR personnel are NOT sent by God to save your sorry behind. They're just performing a neccessary task, neccessitated by the individual's lack of preparation and care.

I totally agree that the person(s) involved should pay the costs. It is way past time when people need to take responsibility for their actions !!!
If people want to be a part a natural experience, they should take responsibility for themselves and know what they are doing. They should be prepared physically,mentally and geared for the experience.

I agree with the comments that say that all National Park visitors should not be charged an extra fee so that a few can engage in certain inherently dangerous activity and then be rescued free of charge. The most sensible solution would be to charge all those who climb Mt. Rainier or who climb El Cap or Half Dome an extra fee that would be used to pay for all Search and Rescues.

The problem with trying to collect the cost after the fact is that many of those who engage in the dangerous activities requiring SAR are young people who while they may have spent thousands on equipment have all of $19.15 in their checking accounts. Trying to collect thousands from them would be an exercise in futility. Then there are the foreign visitors whose assets are overseas which greatly complicates any legal action to collect.

An upfront fee seems reasonable. It becomes part of the cost of the activity. Which trails, climbing etc. would be subject to the fee should be in the discretion of each individual park based on that park's experience with SAR.

Please, get a feeling for scales. We are talking about $4,735,424.12 a year. Does anyone here believe, that the NPS is capable of building a bureaucracy to bill visitors with reimbursement or any kind of insurance, that would be cost effective? Frankly, 4.7 Mio is a small price for the knowledge that every visitor will get help, when he or she needs it. No questions asked, no billing, no formal hassle. Let's just guess how much time and money was wasted to determine how much was spend on SAR in the first place - down to the twelve cents.

Insurance really doesn't have to be "cost effective" if the goal is to offset costs. In this way I don't think it would be that expensive to set up or maintain. Once you log in, as I've seen it's already required within other posts in this thread, you deposit your cost of insurance (this could simply be a barcoded label created on a deposit envelope to be placed in a slotted box when you log in) and then proceed onto your trek. If the whole $4+ million is not recovered, at least much of it would be. The adventurers would also have the comfort knowing they're covered and therefore, shouldnt' be afraid to call when help is needed in the beginning of the crisis.

Calculate the risk factors involved in the outdoor exploits and gage the insurance fees for such activities...foolish or not. Bill accordingly to the outdoor mishap and factor in the cost of the SAR. No checks please! COD ONLY! Another words, some sort of insurance premium to cover any prudent outdoor adventure...the higher the risk, the higher the fee! Sounds fair to me.

I've seen the sign at the Bright Angel Trailhead. It's purpose is there as an attempt to somewhat dissuade the casual hiker, on which most of those entering that trail qualify as, from becoming a statistic, since again that is one of the most highly utilized trails by the least of all prepared hikers, aimlessly wandering out of the coffee shops and ice cream parlor, donuts and sundaes in hands, for a "walk in the park". Unfortunately, the NPS is simply too vast to place those signs at every suitable location. And even more unfortunately, signs are no match for underestimating the environment, daring, bravado, testosterone, the "personal fable", alcohol, and just plain poor judgment.

Maybe my hard-line stance is unrealistic to some degree and hard for many of you to accept. But when I undertake a trek I give no quarter and expect none in return from the environment. That's why I can frequently visit the backcountry as I choose, alone. I'm fully prepared for more circumstances than you can possibly imagine. Never needed any of the extra supplies due to careful planning, scouting, and high level of skill, along with not being stupid or careless. Sure accidents happen. That's why they're called accidents. But they can also be avoided to a large degree, unless you have a death wish and plan on running down 4000 vertical feet in your flip-flops or sandals with a total of 2-20oz. water bottles for sustenance. Or you refuse to leave a "flight plan" and go cruising out over the Nevada desert alone like a total idiot. Or don't bother to tell anyone you're plans have changed from one park to another or one trailhead to another, then get stuck and have to sever you arm to free yourself due to your own over-estimation of your abilities and bravado. None of these circumstances in my eyes are able to be qualified among accidents. These are the direct results of ill-prepared people and the foolish minds that are "better than you are" or just plain incompetence in the thinking department. Either way, definately NOT accidental happenings.

Insofar as the National Idiot Steve Fossett is concerned, if all the State of Nevada wants is a million dollars, his estate should express mail that check and close the books before the Navy and Air Force get involved. THAT'S the bill I really want to be posted to his account.

Rescues caused by stupid and uninformed actions are not unique to wilderness activities. If we are to start charging for such rescues in the wilderness, what about people who try to drive across flooded streets? People who drive standard cars into snowstorms? People who swim into noticed red tides? The list is long.

First, I believe that I have received good information at/from all the national parks I have visited on the subject of safety and preparation for the areas I travel. Perhaps this is why the vast majority of the people in the story sustained no injuries.
Next, I'm not convinced that an additional usage fee or insurance is the best answer. people may add additional risk with the feeling of be insured. also with fees wouldn't this open up liability for the effectiveness of the SAR.
My last comment is about the money, $4.7 million. I question is this an actual amount of out of pocket by the NPS, or is a portion donated in non paid time and expenses. I used to be with a mounted search group in the Northwest.

i do not think people should have to pay for search and rescue, unless it is obviously grossly negligent. first of all, i think it would discourage use of the parks, which would reduce their income from permits etc. secondly, it would most likely tend to make people put off calling help when they really do need it, which could actually make the situation worse. nature is unpredictable, and there will always be a part of it that is dangerous, but the parks are right in my opinion to do their best to encourage responsibility and try to keep lawyers off the hiking trail. otherwise we will have hiking trails with disclaimers a mile long.

i would suggest that if someone really is found to be negligent and requires rescue, they be required to donate time to a local beach/park with cleanup/ trail help as a community service to help parks recoup costs. any nature lover, i think, would consider that a fair trade-off that both helps the park and is a reasonable fine for leaving their brain at home.

finally, for the taxophobes, are many situations where people are rescued at taxpayer expense that do not involve the wilderness that the people here ignore. for instance, in a car accident, even if it is your fault, you may pay for an ambulance, but not necessarily for the police that come to the scene to keep you from being hurt and who then direct traffic. these people seem to be those who do not want to pay a cent of tax for anyone ...unless it works in their favor. i dont drive a car, but i pay taxes for police and emergency personnel. your risky behavior..ie moving at a speed faster than walking is covered, because most drivers are not trying to be unsafe, just as most people hiking/climbing do not WANT to fall off a cliff/ freeze.

great point.
it would probably cost that much to print warning signs that have been proofread by a lawyer.**

(**no offense to lawyers. please see disclaimer for details and exceptions)

Just a few thoughts to add (though this is almost a year old, it stays relevant):

Lone Hiker, you seem to be very vocal about billing the victims. That stance assumes that the rescue is their fault in the first place. Having just finished reading a list of Mount Ranier SAR reports (I'm currently doing research for a paper), there are numerous circumstances where even extremely experienced, well-prepared hikers/climbers have bad luck- a rock fell in the wrong place at the wrong time, an avalanche, they just happened to SLIP. To charge a fee for any of these would be ridiculous.

So there are a couple of options that do not involve hundred-thousand dollar debts for unlucky joes. The first, obvious in our capitalist society, is insurance. Let those who want to get insurance coverage and those who don't have insurance are gambling with their lives and finances. This could be a reasonable stance, but for the fact that the uninsured would know that requesting a rescue could leave them with a hefty debt. Also, even the insured would think twice before calling for rescue, since their premiums would skyrocket. There's also the question of whether or not this insurance would be profitable enough to be offered by a private lender: how much could they reasonably charge to be able to afford the bill of two or three expensive accidents?

Then you have the flat rate on park entrance, or a fee placed on the more dangerous routes. This may be the best charge-the-users option. First of all, those who need SAR will know that they will not be charged; this may lead to abuse of the SAR system, but you have the same situation with all 911 calls. If someone makes a prank call, they're fined. The same system that covers those emergency departments should be considered for extension to SAR. Second, if you charged every entrant to the park, the amount would likely be insignificant since so many are paying it. Kath's second post above is very well said.

First, Mt St Helens is unique in that it is so much of a tourist haven. Its popularity comes not from it being an easiy mountain to climb, but from the fact it blew 1500ft of its top in May 1980. Permits were set up to manage the total number of people accessing the mountain, and paying to cleanup after them. Its not about the climbers....but rather those who hike 1mile into a sensitive post-eruption zone to "ooo" and "aahh" before trampling the recovering vegetation and leave a candywrapper in its place. Permit fees go to the Mt St Helens National Monument, as part of the National Park Service. * The Volcano Rescue Team (local SAR team) is not paid, nor do they receive funding from the NPS. They are a local volunteer county-dispatched SAR team.

People flock to that mountain much like rubber-neckers look at a car-accident on the freeway. They want an up-close view of the carnage, but no responsibility to take care of the injured (i.e. learn about how to properly climb that mountain and the risks involved).
In many areas, Sat-tracking devices (MLUs, PLBs, SPOTs) do not work. I am on a SAR team in NW Oregon and have used SPOT Satellite devices myself in training. The devices identified my location as being either in the middle of the Columbia River, or in an area no where close to where I was actually hiking. I don't even trust GPS devices....they are helpful, and a nice short-cut....but a map and compass (and knowing how to use both) is the only consistent reliable navigation system I've used.

Technology looks great in a catalog, but there's no substitute for sound judgement and training.

[* Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a US Forest Service-managed property, not a unit of the National Park System. Ed.]

i agree with the comment about the cost of ambulances when one needs medical attention from home. The cost of an ambulance in an urban setting is undoubtedly less costly (in terms of resources, time, and danger to rescue party) than a search and rescue in the wilderness. Why would anyone ever expect SAR to be free? One enters the wilderness to have solitude and independence. This involves an obvious risk that one voluntarily chooses to partake in. Let people decide for themselves whether or not they forge on in the face of danger because of the cost of SAR.

We cannot expect that risk taking will not have negative consequences once in a while. We should be more tolerant of such happenings and realize it's part of the game. Mourn or mend these unfortunate travelers and move on; whatever you do, don't sue the parks for offering the opportunities we wanted.

By God.....PAY FOR IT...with cold hard cash or your life and limb.

Thanks for your sensible comments Random Walker ! It is good to see that there are at least some people in this nation capable of forming a balanced perspective based upon values far deeper than a fixation upon financial issues. Sadly, money has become for many Americans,just as much of a limiter of freedom, as any invading military could ever hope to be ! It is absolutely wrong to bar people from the enjoyment of the things nature has provided freely,based upon a lack of money ! It is even more asnine to suggest that those who need to be rescued by,''cival servants,whom are paid by taxpayers anyway''should foot the bill ! More than often the people in need of help are in fact tax payers themselves !

We should not overlook the fact that the government is also charging people for meerly the enjoyment of nature in many cases.In fact, if you wish to climb Denali you will be charged a whooping 200.00 dollars,''as if nature alone did not put that mountain in place'' ! The very fact that the government is charging fees for the use of natural areas by everyone,''whether or not they need assistance''means that indeed,the government should in fact foot the bill for all SAR operations. There realy is nothing to debate here !

Mike,forcing someone to pay for something twice is in fact extream and foolish ! When we pay taxes our tax dollars are supposed to be used for SAR services and similar activities which are best provided in a collective manner. Also visitors to our national parks are usualy charged fees,permits ect,which provide funds for SAR and other needed services.

I hope and pray that hiker certficates are not essentialy permits,''beyond entrance or parking fees'' which must be purchased simply to walk in the damend woods ! Next thing you know there will be fees to be paid just to watch the damed sunset and or sunrise !