A Colorado fishing license doesn’t guarantee insurance if you get lost

As local backcountry opens up, Search and Rescue gets busy

By Kristy Acuff

Summer is a busy time in the local backcountry. As the snow melts, the backcountry is opening up and of the thousands of people that head into our local mountains, some will inevitably get lost and need help getting out.

A common misconception among some anglers and hunters is that fishing and hunting licenses come with a free rescue from Colorado Search and Rescue in the event that one is needed. While it is true that a basic search and rescue operation is delivered at no charge, any operation requiring a helicopter or ambulance evacuation would incur charges from the operator, for which the victim is responsible.

The origin of the misconception is perhaps because 25 cents of the cost of hunting and fishing licenses goes into a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) fund, leading some to believe that this is a kind of insurance card. And while the CORSAR fund reimburses search and rescue volunteers for things like fuel or food used during a rescue operation, or for equipment that is damaged or needs replacing, the fund does not pay for ambulance or helicopter services. The rescued individual must cover those costs.

“Through CORSAR fund grants, search and rescue teams and sheriffs can purchase equipment or send team members to search and rescue training courses,” according to the SAR website. “The CORSAR card is not ‘insurance’ nor is ‘insurance’ needed. When Colorado’s SAR carry out a search and rescue mission, they won’t bill you but you may incur costs such as ground or air ambulance.”

Hikers and bikers who use the backcountry but do not buy hunting or fishing licenses have the option to purchase a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card, known as the “CORSAR Card.”

Purchasing a CORSAR card is not necessary to receive search and rescue services. “But if a financially strapped county or SAR team accrues extraordinary costs over time, it may be difficult for them to properly respond to your emergency,” states the website.

The CORSAR card costs $3 a year or $12 for a five-year card.

Locally, the Crested Butte Search and Rescue team ran 24 rescue missions last year, with approximately 90 percent of them in the summer months, according to CBSAR president Randy Felix. The all-volunteer team is responsible for handling emergencies throughout the approximately 4,000 square miles of national forest and wilderness surrounding Crested Butte.

“Summer is definitely a busy time for us,” says Felix. “We’re gearing up for another season of rescues and thankfully we have a strong team of volunteers.”

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