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Morning Edition

N.H. Fish & Game Hopes 'Hike Safe' A Rescue From Budget Shortfall

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Chris Jensen
/
NHPR

New Hampshire’s new voluntary Hike Safe program is set to launch at the start of the New Year.

For a cost of $25 per person or $35 for a family, the Hike Safe card absolves hikers who need to be rescued of footing the bill for costly rescue operations.

You can purchase one here.

New Hampshire Fish & Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau joins Morning Edition to talk about the new program.

Can you first explain a little bit about why this program is necessary? What is it trying to fix?

We have a fund, the search and rescue fund, which is paid for by $1 out of every boat and OHRV registration, and it brings in about $150,000 to $180,000 a year. We reached the point quite a few years ago where that is not covering the costs of our search and rescue operations.

How many searches a year does Fish & Game conduct?

We’re averaging around 180.

So it gets very expensive very quickly.

It can be. So far, for example, the National Guard has been extremely benevolent with us with related to helicopter costs. But should that change, it could really ramp up those costs hugely.

It’s called Hike Safe, but does this only cover hikers?

It doesn’t, it would cover anybody. What we’re really looking for here is just a method of contribution to the department because what’s happened with this overage in costs is that we still go do this work. So the money or the costs default into the Fish & Game fund, which is our core operating money.

How concerned are you that this program may actually encourage irresponsible behavior, now that people who buy the card won’t have to worry about footing the bill?

It is not an absolute. There are two standards. There’s a standard of negligence, and that is a standard of really just not thinking. But there’s also the standard of recklessness, which we can still apply.

Have you been able to gauge the interest level or is it too early? What are the projections for how much revenue this will generate?

It seems to be high. We are rolling out a campaign right now to get the public aware. They’re actually on sale now, effective for Jan. 1, just like our hunting and fishing licenses for the next calendar year. We’ve actually sold the first one. I don’t know where we’re at now. They’re available online only.

We’re just looking for help overall. We’ve got a fairly difficult budget ahead of us for the next two years and whatever help we can get from the public will help us provide the public services people want. We certainly don’t want to be leaving people out there. This is a service that goes to a lot of folks in the course of a year. We spend a lot of time at it and just like most things these days, it simply costs money.

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