The unfortunate turn of events on Mt Hood for Kelly James is sad. And now the massive rescue effort has many calling for a winter month climbing ban and/or forcing location aware devices as you enter any state park. The banter has started…
“They should’ve known”….”They could’ve stopped”….”If they would’ve just…”
And what about who will pay the expense? Some even debate why it seems that out-of-state climbers create the major issues. It doesn’t matter! You and I will pay, but that doesn’t matter. The Hendricks Report has been covering the story non-stop. We need to find Brian and Jerry. We need to do as much as possible as early as possible to help rescue these two men. Of course there is no blank check, but rescue costs are not significant. Let’s act for the less fortunate rather than resurrect old debates.
The perception that climbers are a significant drain on search and rescue services is just not supported by national or state data. An excellent report is here.
Specifically in Oregon there is a requirement that sheriffs report every search and rescue mission in the state—whether performed for a recreational participant, lost child or escaped criminal. This allows the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to perform the most comprehensive analysis of any state in the country. And despite the high level of climbing activity occurring in Oregon, climbing rescues ranked seventh in the state among all categories, representing a significantly smaller share of all rescues than common activities including hiking, motor vehicle use in the backcountry and hunting.
The report points out that the National Park Service in 2003 spent $3.5 million for personnel, supplies, aircraft and vessels to respond to 3,108 search and rescue missions, an average of $1,116 per incident. These search and rescue costs represent a very small portion of the National Park Service’s annual operating budget. For example, during the six year period from 1993 to 1998, search and rescue costs system wide accounted for 0.15% to 0.2% of the entire park service budget. This amounted to approx 1.5 cents out of total costs of $6 per visitor to run the National Park system.
Charging for rescues conflicts with national policies and creates legal liability issues. State laws currently allow the recovery of rescue costs, but vary in terms of the amount that can be recouped and the standard that is applied is based on “reasonable care was exercised” vs. intentionally, knowingly and willfully” entering an area closed to the public.
So, give me a break and go back to writing your Dear Santa letters to see if you’ve been naughty or nice…