The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Division of Emergency Management, recently launched the Utah Search and Rescue Assistance (USARA) card program.
Outdoor enthusiasts with a USARA card subscription will be protected from expensive non-medical rescue costs if they get lost or injured. The program provides a one-year individual subscription for $25 and a family subscription for $35. Five-year subscriptions can be purchased for $100 and $140, respectively.
“The USARA card gives you and your family peace of mind when you are recreating in Utah’s backcountry, while supporting the search and rescue teams we depend on,” said Tom Adams, Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation. “The USARA card is another important piece of ‘gear’ you should take with you on the trail.”
The USARA card will supplement Utah’s Search and Rescue Financial Assistance Program, which is currently funded through surcharges on registered recreational vehicles and boats. The program distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to counties across the state, but those reimbursements often do not cover the full cost of search and rescue efforts.
Recent numbers show that more than 1,400 people are rescued by search and rescue teams in Utah each year. Sixty-three percent of victims are rescued in a county in which they didn’t reside. The percent increases dramatically for tourism-rich areas such as Grand County and can severely strain the small tax bases of rural communities. The lack of funding to pay for search and rescue has forced some counties to charge rescue victims for the cost of their rescue.
“Back-bill charges can be an unwelcome surprise after the trauma and anxiety of a backcountry incident,” said Sheriff Steven White of Grand County, who serves as chair of the Search and Rescue Advisory Board. “We look forward to the added protection for our visiting friends as they enjoy Utah’s outdoor recreation.”
County sheriff departments coordinate search and rescue work throughout the state, using highly skilled staff and volunteers. USARA card proceeds will help fund the replacement, upgrade, and rental of search and rescue equipment, as well as the training of search and rescue volunteers. To contact a local county sheriff office, visit the Utah Sheriffs’ Association.
To sign up for a Utah Search and Rescue Assistance card, visit rescue.utah.gov.