Oregon Bill to Require Emergency Locator Beacons on Mt. Hood, OR


An Oregon bill that proposes mandating climbers on Mt. Hood to carry emergency locator beacons is poised to pass that states legislature.

We told you in our last E-News that the Access Fund opposes the mandatory use of these simple one way devices despite uninformed media pundits calling this position irresponsible. 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 . Every mountain rescue unit in the state of Oregon opposes House Bill 2509 and the Mountain Rescue Association, which represents over 90 mountain rescue teams throughout North America, also opposes the bill. Steve Rollins with Portland Mountain Rescue, who has performed the rescues on Mt. Hood these last few months, also agrees with the Access Fund stance. Rollins says the legislature can't mandate good judgment. In an urban environment, we do everything we can do to make the world safe around us. And that is one of the beauties of the backcountry that it is untouched and it really is you and nature. 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 laudable in light of recent high profile rescue and recovery efforts that were featured in mainstream media of climbers 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 (such as the fast-moving weather systems of the Pacific Northwest).

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. The next step is for the bill to be assigned to a state Senate committee and then brought to that chamber for a vote. Oregon would become the first state to require such equipment if the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by the governor. It would go into effect as early as Jan. 1 2008.