True North Blog

Who Should Pay for the Rescue?

Last week, search and rescue (SAR) teams were dispatched on multiple occasions to find or assist hikers who had gotten lost in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.  The fact that the hikers needed help wasn’t unusual (since it happens fairly often), but that so many did, in so short a period of time, raised eyebrows in the local outdoors community.  After all, for one female hiker rescued on Wednesday, this wasn’t her first time requiring the service of SAR — It was her second time in three months.

The recent events there, then, has helped to fuel a continuing debate that has grown across the country over the last ten years:  Who should pay the cost of a wilderness rescue?  The use of a helicopter, for example, for even a few hours can cost a local government thousands of dollars.  Still, it doesn’t seem that the general public generally minds spending taxpayer dollars to rescue people who really need help.  Instead, the apparent problem is essentially being forced to spend those same dollars on people who needed help owing to their personal negligence (even stupidity).

But attempting to analyze the merits of each rescue may not be as easy as it may appear.  As one SAR official explained, “How do you determine stupid?”  Besides, many SAR groups around the country don’t want to be forced to invoice for their services.

The one point, though, on which most experts agree is that many of these rescues could be preventable, even mitigated, if people took even just minimal precautions.  The view of that same SAR official is that someone who typical hikes in a city park needs to be prepared when hiking in a remote locale.  As he added, “People are becoming more and more isolated from the outdoors because of the amount of time they spend indoors.”

Anyway, to learn more about this story and issue, check out this article from the Arizona Republic: Lost Cause – Lure of Dutchman’s Gold Leads Hikers Astray.


Do you want to be better prepared for the next time that you head outdoors?  Consider taking one of the many course offered by True North in land navigation and wilderness survival.  Whether you are a novice, or have years of backcountry experience, our courses provide a great way to learn and refresh important skills.  Contact Erik for more information.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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