Congress orders report on costs of rescue missions

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress directed the Interior Department Tuesday to prepare a report on how best to recover costs from rescue missions on Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.

The House, by voice vote, commissioned an Interior Department report that will also consider the option of requiring climbers to provide proof of medical insurance prior to receiving a climbing permit by the National Park Service. The department also will study the amounts charged for climbing permits.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Resources Committee, said more than 1,000 climbers every year attempt to scale the 20,320-foot peak, resulting in deaths and injuries and dangerous search and rescue missions.

Preparing the report is estimated to cost about $250,000, but Young said that one rescue mission alone in 1998, when six climbers ignored Park Service advice against their climb, cost $220,000.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who sponsored the bill, said Denali National Park spends $750,000 a year for education, the pre-positioning of supplies on the mountain, a high-altitude helicopter and rescue missions.

''A typical year sees a dozen major rescue incidents and one or two fatal accidents,'' Murkowski said. ''While I admire the courage and tenacity of mountain climbers, I do not think it is fair to divert scarce park funds from services that benefit the majority of park visitors for the purpose of providing extraordinarily expensive services to a small number of users who put themselves in harm's way with their eyes wide open.''

The Senate passed the bill last November.


The bill number is S. 698.

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