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Search and Rescue Funding FAQs

Commonly asked questions about Search and Rescue missions in New Hampshire:


How many Search and Rescue Missions occur in New Hampshire and what is the cost of these missions?
Over the past ten years (FY 2009-2019), the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department conducted approximately 1,890 search and rescue missions, at an approximate cost of $3.1 million. This averages out to be approximately 190 missions per year costing approximately $308,952 per year.
Who pays for these search and rescue missions?
In spite of what most people believe, tax dollars are not used to support these missions. Search and Rescue efforts are funded by three sources: 1) a $1 fee added to every boat, OHRV, and snowmobile registration is deposited into the Search and Rescue Fund. 2) Revenues from the sale of voluntary Hike Safe cards go to the Search and Rescue Fund. 3) Any donations or reimbursements (from billed negligent hikers). Any costs above and beyond these three sources must be covered with revenue from the Fish and Game Fund.
What groups receive Search and Rescue services in New Hampshire?
Climbers and hikers utilize 62% of all search and rescue services. Hunters, anglers, boaters, snowmobilers and ATV riders combined use 11% of the total services. Interestingly, 44% of all search and rescue missions are conducted on White Mountain National Forest properties.
What services are required for missing or runaway children and elderly persons who become lost?
The elderly, missing children and escapes from medical facilities are often of great interest for news outlets and the general public. In spite of the extensive press coverage they receive, these types of incidents account for just 14% of all search and rescue services each year.
How much money is spent on Search and Rescue each year?
Over the last ten years from 2009 to 2019, Fish and Game's expenditures for conducting search and rescue missions totaled approximately $3.1 million averaging approximately $308,952 annually.
Does Fish and Game recoup search and rescue costs from negligent people?
In 2008, a law was passed authorizing Fish and Game to request reimbursement from negligent hikers. If a person’s behavior is determined to be negligent and, as a result of their negligent actions, a search mission was initiated, they may be asked to reimburse the Department for the costs of the mission. While this change in the law has helped Fish and Game recoup some costs, it falls far short of supporting the search and rescue program.
What is the process for determining if a rescued person is billed?
All Search and Rescue missions go through a review process involving guidelines established by the NH Attorney General's Office. That process involves the mission's supervisor within Fish and Game Law Enforcement, NH Fish and Game Department administration, and final concurrence through a review by the NH Attorney General's Office. All cases are unique and not all will get billed.
Is Fish and Game doing anything to reduce the need for search and rescues?
Since 2003, Fish and Game, the White Mountain National Forest and outdoor organizations have worked together on a high-profile outreach program called HikeSafe, intended to educate outdoor enthusiasts about the need to be prepared and how to act responsibly when enjoying the outdoors. This program has served as a successful model for several other states. Review the Hiker Responsibility Code at