Author Topic: New Hampshire Fish & Game and SAR Funding Bill Testimony  (Read 560 times)

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New Hampshire Fish & Game and SAR Funding Bill Testimony
« on: February 10, 2007, 10:03:42 PM »
I received this yesterday. frankly I think that NH Fish & Game does a great job. Lt. Tim does a great job, as do all of the people I have met from F&G. I think it would be a shame if it was merged into one of the other state agencies. if you live in NH please contact your representitive and let them know you don't think it's a good idea.

thanks

--al

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Greetings  Everyone,
 
I am writing to inform you and  garner your support and testimony for the upcoming SAR Funding bill which is  going to be heard next week.
 
 **On Wednesday February 14, 2007  in the House Fish and Game Committee –LOB Room #307 at 10:00AM they will be  hearing testimony on HB433 which  is the bill relative to funding Fish and Game Search and Rescue  Operations.  At www.nh.gov <http://www.nh.gov/>  go to  legislature and there you can read the full text of the bill, but essentially  this is the bill introduced by the department asking for $200,000 to come from  the general fund to help fund search and rescue.  This bill was brought  forward by the department to garner SAR revenue.   
 
As many of you already know the  current funding for SAR comes from a $1.00 surcharge to every OHRV  (snowmobiles and ATV,s) and every motor boat registration in the state.   This accounts for projected revenue of $170,000-$190,000 annually.  As  you all know last winter and this winter have not been very favorable to the  snowmobile participants and therefore the revenue from those sources I am sure  will be greatly diminished again.  We have been spending over $260,000  annually on SAR for the last few years and our surplus from earlier years is  gone.  Last year alone we spent just over $280,000 on SAR in NH.   This is not including a lot of training or equipment which has been conserved  the last few years to meet the bills of missions etc.  This is also not  including much of committed moneys to the hikeSafe education program because  we have been spending it on missions etc.  We are seeking the additional  $200,000 on top of the current funding to help pay the bills and get us back  up to getting some training, gear and hikeSafe education.  There is a  measure in the bill that if our expenses go over the funded money the Governor  can give us more during the year to meet expenses.  By giving money to us  out of the general fund for this service allows for sharing the cost for all  SAR among everyone, not just a user group that benefits from the service, they  actually fund, a small % of the time. 
 
I am also seeking your support on  this bill because of the talks among the legislature and by other introduced  bills taking SAR from Fish and Game and giving the responsibility to another  agency like Safety who has money to do it.  I have always felt we are the  appropriate agency and have worked hard to make SAR in NH the continued strong  cooperative Corp effort of Federal, State, and Volunteer organizations working  together to fulfill this legislatively mandated responsibility.  WE in NH  are unique in this current relationship and I am proud of what we do, which  makes us a model for others to follow.  When you look at the overall $$,s  it honestly isn,t that much money for the service the residents and visitors  of the State receives for these missions.  Thank goodness for you  committed volunteers because we couldn,t do it alone, and if we had to, the  $$,s cost would be a lot more than what we are asking for and I just hope the  Legislature understands this.
 
**I also want you aware of another  Senate bill SB127 that will also  be heard on February 14, 2007 at 1:00PM in LOB Room #103.  Again you can  read the full text at www.nh.gov <http://www.nh.gov/>  but this  bill has been introduced by Senator Gallus for his constituents in COOS  county.  This bill essentially is asking that the NHFG does not do SAR  operations on the National Forest Lands in the state unless the cost is  otherwise funded or reimbursed to the state.  The department has done a  fiscal impact on this bill and it would decrease the departments SAR  expenditures by $64,500 in FY 2008.  I want to add that this bill was not  brought forward by the department and the Law Enforcement Division of the  Department does not support this bill and has made that statement to our  Commission who has not taken a position on the bill as of this  writing.
 
This bill is brought forward by  constituents (mostly sportsmen) up north voicing dissatisfaction that FG  spends time and money doing SAR on the National Forest and the Federal  Government does not pay for any of it.  They are also upset that the  Conservation Officers are doing this work and risking themselves without any  compensation by the forest.  Therefore, the sportsmen and women are not  getting our services, which they have paid for, while we are doing these  missions.  There are some who also would prefer the National Forest do  all the SAR on the forest and Fish and Game not be involved.  I think  some of this is clear misinformation, knee jerk reaction, emotion and not in  the best interest of all.  The Forest Service does do SAR on the  Forest during winter months in the Cutler  River Drainage.  This is significant and if we had to do all of it at  those times it would cost us even more money.  In the big picture for  consistency, manageability and resources $64,500 isn,t a lot.  The forest  service also contributes personnel and equipment as is requested by FG per  mission, and has contributed $75,000 to the hikeSafe initiative.  The  forest is an asset to the STATE, and we should be apart of its management and  its SAR responsibilities.  They also have not figured in the overall  administration of such a rule.  If we start a mission on private land or  within a State Park where do we stop and others take over, or will the state  parks have to pay for our services next???  Our overall time expenditure  on SAR throughout the state is a small % of time in comparison to all of our  other duties.  Unfortunately, as you all know SAR never comes at a  convenient time.  I think it is important for the senate to hear from the  other constituents who work and play in/on the forest and are involved in  these activities.
 
**There is another SAR bill coming  up, but I do not yet know when.  This is House bill HB640 which adds a new paragraph to our  SAR responsibilities statute RSA 206:26 to require persons needing the  department,s SAR operations due to being lost or injured, paid by the  department pursuant to RSA 206:42, to reimburse the search and rescue fund for  reasonable cost of such operations.  Any cost determined to be less than  $2,000 shall not require proof of negligence.  We have not finished a  fiscal impact on this bill as of yet. 
 
This bill also was not brought  forward by the department.  It essentially is going to require everyone  to pay for SAR who is involved in a mission, which is much more liberal than  the current law that allows us to seek reimbursement for a more stringent  requirement of Recklessly. I will keep you posted as a learn more about this  one.
 
Please spread the word within your  organizations and also your opinions to your local legislators to educate them  on the issues at hand.  I hope to see you all on the  14th.
 
Thank you for your continued  support and if you have questions feel free to contact  me.
 
Sincerely,

Lt. Todd  Bogardus
NH Fish and Game   
Al Hospers
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