New program will help fund Search and Rescue efforts | ParkRecord.com

New program will help fund Search and Rescue efforts

Adventure-seekers can buy a little peace of mind

Nan Chalat Noaker
The Park Record

Finally. The State Office of Economic Development has delivered on a promise made more than two years ago.

Thursday, the website that allows recreators to sign up for the long-awaited Utah Search and Rescue Assistance Card went live, guaranteeing participants they will not be back charged for extraction from some unwanted adventure. The cost of the card is $25 per individual, or $35 per family, per year, and covers all nonmedical search-and-rescue operation expenses.

The intent of the program, originally approved during the Utah Legislature's General Session in 2015, was to help beef up reimbursements to individual counties for the search and rescue costs associated with the state's growing outdoor recreation industry.

The state currently dips into money collected from surcharges on recreational vehicles and boats for those reimbursements, but the payments amount to only a fraction of the money spent.

Summit County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Alan Siddoway says any money generated by the new USARA card will be welcome.

According to Siddoway, the county's all-volunteer search and rescue team has never yet billed anyone for their services, but the costs mount up quickly and in outdoor recreation meccas like Summit and Grand counties they can take a big bite out of the budget.

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"The program is a good thing. If folks support it, the money will augment the fund we use for equipment and training. Our search and rescue department is 100 percent volunteer and I want to equip them the best we can," Siddoway said.

While the volunteers may be enjoying a brief off-season respite right now, Siddoway is anticipating a busy summer season. He listed numerous sportsmen who might need their services in the coming months including hikers, climbers, fishermen, boaters and even paddle boarders.

According to Tom Adams, director of the state Department of Outdoor Recreation, the delay in implementing the program was due to concerns about some of the wording in the original bill. That was corrected when the legislature met in January.
Now that the website is up and running though, Adams said he hopes outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of the program, not only to avoid a gnarly rescue bill, but to support the volunteers to stand ready to make sure everyone gets home safely.

"We have a great community when it comes to volunteerism. They are the unsung heroes and we want to support them with this program'" Adams said.

According to the USARA card website, "When people head into the backcountry, they don't plan on having an accident, getting lost, or suffering from temperature extremes. But when 'nature happens,' calls for help go out to county search and rescue crews. Purchasing a Utah Search and Rescue Assistance (USARA) card provides you and your family peace of mind and helps to support the vital Search and Rescue services we depend on in the backcountry. The USARA card is just another piece of 'safety equipment' the prudent person takes into the wilds."

There is a caveat though, the Search and Rescue Assistance Card legislation specifically states that all bets are off if someone "intentionally or recklessly created a situation requiring rescue services." Card or no card, adventure seekers need to use some common sense.

To learn more and to sign up for the Utah Search and Rescue Assistance Card go to:
https://secure.utah.gov/rescue//

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