Rep. Stewart introduces bipartisan search and rescue bill

Today, Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Ed Case (D-HI) introduced the Public Lands Search and Rescue Act of 2022. This bipartisan legislation creates a grant program to assist states with the costs of buying, leasing, and maintaining life-saving search and rescue equipment.

The program is intended to help with “remote search and rescue.” This is defined as an activity that utilizes, trains, or supports responders with specialized equipment to locate, provide assistance to, and remove to safety individuals who are lost, injured, stranded, or entrapped in remote areas. Counties with low populations and high visitation numbers are burdened with frequent remote search-and-rescue operations despite low tax bases to cover the costs.

“Western law enforcement regularly risk their lives to rescue people who are lost, injured, or stranded in some of the most remote areas of our country,” said Rep. Stewart. “These everyday heroes – as well as those who need rescuing – deserve the best equipment and resources possible. This may seem like a foreign, obscure issue to those in more urban areas, but this legislation will save lives on day one. I’m so proud to stand beside my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide critical, commonsense support to those in need.”

“Even seasoned hikers can lose their way and end up lost or hurt in our national parks and other public lands. Hawai‘i has seen firsthand the need for available search and rescue activities at Hawai‘i Volcanoes and Haleakalā National Parks, which draw millions of visitors each year. Since 2011, emergency personnel at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park responded to over 180 emergencies, which is paid for by our local communities,” said Congressman Ed Case. “This legislation will fairly help reimburse local governments in Hawai‘i and across the nation for the costs they bear to prepare for and to conduct search and rescue on our federal lands.”

Greg Miles, Chair, Natural Resource and Public Lands Committee of the Utah Association of Counties: “I wish to express the support of the counties and my support for the Public Land Search and Rescue Act of 2022. Funding for equipment, maintenance, and carrying out search and rescue operations would be greatly received…A person’s call for help should not be a decision of cost when their life is threatened.”

Sheriff Tracy Glover, Kane County: “Over the past few years, as we have seen advances in information sharing through social media, visitation on public lands has increased significantly. Wester sheriffs are being tasked with a significantly increased number of calls to assist people who are lost or injured in some of the most remote areas across the Western states. These rescues are often very technical in nature and require unique resources and equipment. We’re so grateful that Congressman Stewart is willing to shine a light on this issue by putting together a bill that will provide real support where it’s needed.”

Sheriff Danny Perkins, Garfield County: “The helicopter is not only the most important tool we have in search and rescue, but it is the only means we have to find you if you’re in a slot canyon, flood, or miles from your car in red rock country. It is the only way to save lives. It is the most vital tool we have.”

The grants are awarded on a 75/25 cost-share basis, meaning the grant can cover up to 75% of the equipment’s cost and the grantee will need to cover 25 percent. States and counties cannot keep footing the bill for federal land rescue operations, but a cost-share ensures all parties are participating in the funding. This arrangement will offer some much-needed relief for rural law enforcement stretched thin by remote search-and-rescue operations on federal land.