CSAR’s mission is to empower every search and rescue team and partner in Colorado to accomplish their goals and duties better through advocacy, coordination, collaboration, and education.
A Colorado Parks and Wildlife study showed that 92% of Coloradans recreate outdoors, and 62% recreate in parks, trails, and open spaces one or more times a week. In addition, out-of-state visitors to Colorado have increased steadily in the past 20 years. It’s not surprising that backcountry search and rescue (BSAR) teams in the state are busy -- and getting busier.
Backcountry Search and Rescue (BSAR)
BSAR efforts in Colorado are a local issue, with county sheriffs required to coordinate efforts within their counties. Until recently, the only state funding support for this important work was $400 - 500k in annual grants from the Department of Local Affairs’ SAR Fund. Most of these funds are raised from a 25-cent surcharge on hunting and fishing licenses and motorboat, snowmobile and OHV registrations, and the sale of Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) cards. As of 2023, the SAR Fund has now moved to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Due to new legislation supported by CSAR and passed in 2021 and 2022, additional funding sources have been identified and are in the process of being implemented.
BSAR teams in Colorado respond, at the request of law enforcement, to incidents on the eastern plains; in our urban and suburban areas; on the soaring peaks, cliff walls, and roaring rivers of the rocky mountains; and in the deserts and canyons of our western slope.
CSAR assists its member teams in several ways. First and foremost, our 25 state coordinators rotate in an on-call role to facilitate resource requests from any team that needs help, whether it be additional members from other teams, dog teams from other counties, helicopters from the National Guard, or cell phone forensics from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC). CSAR also provides educational resources for teams and for the public, legislative advocacy, and collaboration tools for the SAR community.
For years we show no record of organized search and rescue in Colorado. If someone were lost in the backcountry, the nearby residents would go looking for them. In the Boulder area, the guides and other mountaineers would band together to bring in a lost or injured climber.
After a critical incident on Navajo Peak in December of 1946, people began to think about organized rescue. A meeting was held in March of 1947 to form Boulder County Rescue, which later that year became Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG). They worked as the only team in the state until the fall of 1957, when the Arapahoe Rescue Patrol was formed in Littleton. The next team to organize was the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen in 1959.
Since then, CSRB has grown and evolved to be the representative organization that it is today, and teams designate specific members to represent them to the Board. Committees composed of individuals from member teams tackle projects in SAR skills education, helping with preventative search and rescue education (PSAR) and coordinated messaging for the general public, advocating for BSAR-related legislation, collecting statistics for resource needs analysis, and coordinating grant monies received on behalf of the teams. In 2019, CSRB changed its name to the Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR). Countless members from many teams volunteered their time in the early days of CSAR’s formation, and we owe a debt of gratitude to all of them.