SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation launched a new program Thursday to help raise extra funds for search and rescue efforts — the Utah Search and Rescue Assistance (USARA) card.
The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation along with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Division of Emergency Management announced the card during a Thursday morning news conference and demonstration.
The USARA card will not be a physical card, it is an electronic or printed proof of purchase. Officials recommend that program participants keep the proof of purchase until the card expires.
Recent reports show more than 1,400 people are rescued each year in Utah. Often times, those search efforts can last for days, meaning thousands of dollars are spent on manpower and equipment.
In some cases, counties have had to back-bill and charge rescue victims for the cost of their rescue due to a lack of funding.
Grand County Sheriff Steven White said his search teams average 157 rescues per year in Moab. Last year, those rescues cost the county $200,000.
“A drowning may go 10-plus days, to some rope rescues that may take 15 to 20 people,” White said.
While search and rescue teams in all of Utah’s counties get some of the costs reimbursed through fees on recreation vehicles and boats, the funding still falls short when it comes to training or buying, as well as replacing the necessary equipment.
But officials hope the newly launched USARA card will help fund search and rescue efforts without holding the search victims liable.
Rescue victims won’t be required to physically possess the card at the rescue scene but will need to provide their proof of purchase after the rescue.
“At the end of the day the best thing about the card is that every county will be available to receive those funds to reimburse them for their service,” said Tom Adams, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation.
The card is expected to generate about $100,000 a year in its early stages, officials said.
The USARA card will cost $25 a year for individuals and $35 a year for families. A 5-year plan will also be available. For more information visit rescue.utah.gov.
Contributing: Yvette Cruz