State SAR Fund

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Per Colorado statue, County Sheriff’s are responsible for Search and Rescue in their respective county. All SAR missions in Dolores County incur expenses – some into the thousands of dollars. If it weren’t for volunteer SAR members, that number would even be higher. ALL SAR mission expenses are paid for by the County. But, you say, if I buy a fishing or hunting license, or register an off-highway vehicle, snowmobile or boat in Colorado I am paying for SAR, right? Sort of. Fifty cents of your license goes into the State SAR fund. Counties are able to apply for re-imbursement for MOST SAR expenses when rescuing someone who has paid this fee. It just takes a few months to over a year to receive it. Great right? Well, no, actually. In Dolores County, only about half of our SAR missions involve rescuing someone who has paid into the fund. Chances for re-imbursement drop dramatically then. Also, historically, over 95% of the people we rescue are NOT from Dolores County. This places an unfair burden on the taxpayers of Dolores County because the County is REQUIRED by law to save people in the backcountry – no matter where they are from. And, taxpayers have to cover some of those bills. Dolores County has been averaging roughly 20 SAR missions a year – here is how the dollars play out: 1 mission will be for a resident of Dolores County (they almost always have paid into the SAR fund) and the County eventually gets most of its expenses re-imbursed. 10 missions will be for people who have not paid into the SAR fund and are from out of county – Dolores County taxpayers must pay for any incurred expenses. 9 missions will have paid into the SAR fund, are from out-of-county and the County will be re-imbursed for roughly 80-90% of the mission expenses. The rest will be paid out of County tax dollars. And finally, equipment repairs, upkeep, some trainings, vehicle maintenance and repairs, etc. for SAR efforts are an expense the county must pay out of tax dollars also. This, on average, is several thousand dollars per year.

Keith Keesling
Dolores County SAR Captain/
Colorado State SAR Coordinator