By Associated Press - Sunday, January 19, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s tax writing committee is considering whether hikers who buy a hike safe card should be forgiven for any rescue expenses they’d otherwise owe the state for being negligent and getting into trouble.

The Ways and Means Committee is holding a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that authorizes the Fish and Game Department to sell voluntary hike safe cards for $25 per person and $35 per family. People who obtain the cards would not be liable to repay rescue costs if their rescue was due to negligence on their part.

The bill also would exempt people with hunting and fishing licenses and anyone with an off-highway recreational vehicle registration, including for a snowmobile.

The House has already given its preliminary support to the proposal.

Hunters, anglers, boaters, snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle riders currently pay almost all the rescue costs though license fees to the agency, but account for only about 14 percent of the rescues since 2006.

The department has struggled to keep up with the cost of rescues, which are primarily for helping lost or injured hikers who wander off a trail or find themselves unprepared for adverse weather.

Rescue costs have ranged from about $200 to more than $50,000.

State law holds those rescued liable if they acted negligently, but efforts to collect the cost of rescues are not always successful.

All but $3 from each hike safe card would be deposited in the agency’s search and rescue fund.

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