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We've Got Your Back in the Backcountry

Family hiking

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When people head into the backcountry, they don't plan on having an accident, getting lost, or suffering from temperature extremes. But when "nature happens," calls for help go out to county search and rescue crews.

Purchasing a Utah Search and Rescue Assistance (USARA) card provides you and your family peace of mind and helps to support the vital Search and Rescue services we depend on in the backcountry. The USARA card is just another piece of "safety equipment" the prudent person takes into the wilds.

In most cases, rescues are relatively straightforward affairs, but some incidents quickly become complicated and technically challenging, entailing expensive ground and air searches or helicopter evacuations. In Grand County, for example, the average cost of a rescue is about $2,000, but the most expensive rescue missions can exceed tens of thousands of dollars. High-cost rescues can severely strain the small tax bases of gateway communities, some of which may see an average of 100 rescues a year.

The lack of funding to pay for search and rescue has unfortunately forced some hard-hit counties to back-bill and charge rescue victims for the costs of their rescue. To the victim, these back-bill charges can be a nasty surprise after the trauma and anxiety of a backcountry incident.

The Utah Search and Rescue Assistance (USARA) card allows backcountry recreationists to contribute to search and rescue efforts while eliminating the liability to repay associated costs. Fewer sheriffs will be back-billing victims if they have this card. The program has been priced for value with a one-year individual subscription at $25 and just $35 for a family. A five-year subscription gives the purchaser a 20 percent discount ($100 for individual plan and $140 for a family plan).

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