Oregon Bill Requiring Emergency Locator Beacons on Mt. Hood May Not Become Law


An Oregon bill that would require Mt. Hood climbers to carry emergency locator beacons recently stalled in the Oregon Senate leading some to believe that the measure will fail this legislative session.

Earlier this year the Access Fund joined the Mountain Rescue Association and Portland Mountain Rescue in opposing a mandatory use of these simple one way devices. See the Access Fund testimony on the bill www.accessfund.org/pdf/HR_2509_Testimony.pdf. Find more background at www.accessfund.org/pubs/en/e-news77.htm#_Oregon_Beacon_Bill.

Steve Rollins, who conducts SAR activities on Mt. Hood, says the legislature can't mandate good judgment. I'm a strong believer that the laws of nature are going to be far more powerful than any law our legislators come up with. And if we can educate people to respect the laws of nature more, that will go a lot further than any law that we come up with.

The bill, while a well-intentioned attempt at addressing recent high profile rescue and recovery efforts on Oregons Mt. Hood, is a knee-jerk reaction and will not prevent climbers from being injured or killed in climbing related accidents. The bill simply adds a layer of red-tape to climbing a mountain and at worst could actually give less experienced climbers a sense of false security when presented with conditions out of their control.

Despite climbing groups and professional rescuers coming out against the bill, in late March the Oregon House of Representatives voted 33-22 to require the locator devices for all Mt. Hood climbers traveling above 10,000 feet. However, the bill was referred to the Senate General Government Committee where it is expected to not emerge with a vote in part because the legislation had no existing enforcement capability and no money to fund its regulation. Critics of the bill also note that the measure is reactive, not proactive. The Hood River News reports that virtually every mountaineering organization in Oregon opposed SB 2509 and pointed out that state statistics showed only 3.4 percent of rescues statewide involved climbers. Many in the Oregon legislature are now focused on efforts to fund search and rescue efforts conducted by county sheriff departments. For more information contact [email protected]