Should Stuck Snowmobiler Be Fined?

Could this be the future for New Hampshire Fish and Game’s search and rescue?

“Thank you for calling NH Fish and Game, Search and Rescue. We are here to serve you. Please have your credit card ready and the next available officer will be with you shortly. “

Recently, Todd Twine of Bedford, NH found himself stuck in waist deep snow in the Rump Mountain area of of Pittsburg, NH while snowmobiling off a marked and designated snowmobile trail. According to a report, it is illegal to ride anywhere, other than an approved snowmobile trail, without landowner permission. I found myself wondering, is this true?

Most of Pittsburg’s 200,000 acres is part of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Working Forest. The State of New Hampshire purchased the recreational rights as part of a conservation easement for the benefit of the public. The land is owned by the local timber company but access to the lands is guaranteed as part of the conservation easement. So from whom would you ask permission from to do some off trail riding?

Off trail riding, historically, has been part of the fun. Riding to the top of Mount Magalloway, via the summer hiking trail, is a challenging ride done by many every year. Scaling the Magalloway ‘Bowl’ is for late season thrill seekers, see our Video of the Week for April 7th. And Stub Hill Pond is visited time and again by those knowing where the trail is, see our Photo of the Week on March 30th. So what’s the big deal?

The cost for Search and Rescue is on the shoulders of New Hampshire Fish and Game. This is a very costly service for a financially struggling state agency. Fining those lost or requiring reimbursement from those rescued has come up in many news stories as ways to continue the service offered by Fish and Game. And while that might be a tempting way to help balance budgets, is that really the way we want to treat visitors or neighbors in need?

We all do dumb things. We all make mistakes. We all want our loved ones rescued if they make a mistake. NH earns 9% every time visitors and residents go out to dinner, stay over night at a hotel or rent a car. NH relies on that occurring over and over. The state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing visitors to the hotels, restaurants and car rental agencies. Isn’t there a more hospitable way than fining and fees?

Just my 2 cents, what do you think?