If Colorado can do more to raise money for backcountry search and rescue teams, state Sen. Kerry Donovan and a cadre of legislative allies want to talk about it.
Wednesday, the Colorado Senate sent a study bill over to the House on a 28-7 vote. Though the bill has bipartisan high country sponsorship — Republican Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale with House Democratic Rep. Julie McCluskie of Dillon and Republican Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida — all the votes against it on the Senate floor Wednesday were Republicans.
Senate Bill 130 acknowledges Colorado has more than 2,800 search-and-rescue volunteers who collectively do an average of about 3,600 missions a year. The effort is paid for with grants and donations, on top of money from hunting and fishing licenses, but frequently from volunteers' own pockets.
The study would look at how to raise money for maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment, worker’s compensation insurance and other benefits for staff and volunteers, including retirement benefits and out-of-pocket expenses.
"If we want to support the outdoor recreation activities that so many love in our great state, it comes with ensuring the safety of both residents and guests in Colorado," Donovan said in a press release Wednesday.
"This bill helps our search and rescue system respond to growing strains on capacity by exploring recommendations for funding and volunteer retention."
The legislation comes with a $208,190 appropriation to the Department of Natural Resources, but it includes outreach and training across to backcountry rescuers on physical and psychological impacts of search and rescue work.
The bill passed two votes on the Senate floor, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, without anyone speaking against it.
It now goes to the House to start over. The legislative session is scheduled to end May 6.