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Annual funding finds stability for B.C.’s ground search and rescue teams

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC welcomes additional funding for ground search and rescue groups.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC welcomes additional funding for ground search and rescue groups.

“We are thrilled that the (province) continues to help ensure that the life-saving work of search and rescue groups and their volunteers are there when people need help in the backcountry,” Louise Pedersen, executive director, said.

Last week, the province announced that 78 GSAR teams will receive $6 million in annual funding as part of a first-of-its-kind agreement in Canada. The previous funding arrangement distributed more than $33 million over six years through grants, a potentially less consistent funding delivery tool.

Pedersen welcomed that aspect of the agreement, now in its second year. BC Search and Rescue Association had long lobbied for annual funding, she said.

“Not knowing where your funding is coming from is a significant impediment to the sustainability of most nonprofit organizations, so for BCSARA to have the reassurance that a large part of their funding needs will be met year after year will help ensure that the current model can be maintained and that the individuals or groups who find themselves in need of assistance will never be billed for services provided.”

The annual agreement also means — at least on a yearly basis — more money for the teams with $6 million per year more than $33 million over six years.

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Chris Mushumanski, BCSARA’s president, said stable funding is vital for their operations on the ground.

“It funds important equipment, our programs, and supports the volunteers after tough calls with our critical incident stress-management team,” Mushumanski said. “We appreciate this important investment in public safety as the busy season for searches, rescues and delivering evacuation notices is well underway.”

Emergency Minister Bowinn Ma praised the work of the 3,000 GSAR volunteers registered with the province.

We’re proud to support search and rescue groups, including those helping with on-the-ground wildfire evacuations, by continuing to provide sustainable funding through this first-of-its-kind agreement,” she said.

Annual funding from the province comes on top of incident-related funding to cover operational search-and-rescue costs amounting to $7.85 million in 2021-2022.

This funding also supports administrative and operational activities, including the outdoor education program AdventureSmart and mental-health supports for volunteers.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC works on behalf of 70 provincial and regional member organizations and represents more than 100,000 individuals, as well as the general public, to support enjoyable and respectful outdoor recreation opportunities for all.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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