CSAR hires first executive director

In Members, Public by Anna Debattiste

The Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR) announced the hiring of  its first-ever full-time executive director on October 28, 2021. This new position will be filled by  CSAR’s current president, Jeff Sparhawk.

The creation of this position was an important step in CSAR’s ongoing efforts to design a more  sustainable system for backcountry search and rescue (BSAR) in Colorado. The effort began in 2019 when CSAR advocated for the passage of a bill mandating a study of BSAR by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). After a Covid-related delay, the bill was reintroduced in 2021 as Senate Bill  21-245 and was signed into law in June. This bill provides funding for a stress injury training pilot program for volunteer rescuers, and commissions a study to research options for improved worker’s compensation, long term mental health benefits, reimbursement to volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses, and possibly retirement benefits. This support for the volunteer responders is intended to lessen the burden of supporting our communities, while realizing economies of scale where possible. The creation of a full-time executive director position will help ensure  continued forward movement of these efforts while all of Colorado can continue to rely upon the low cost volunteer model for backcountry search and rescue. 

“In addition to our humanitarian services, we are part of Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy.  Our communities and our recreation economy relies on backcountry search and rescue,” says Sparhawk. “It’s time for us to take a serious look at our current system and proactively evolve so we will be able to better adapt to the changing needs of Colorado.”

CSAR vice president Pat Caulfield comments, “Jeff’s selection by the CSAR board of directors  seems a natural choice; his leadership over the last four years has resulted in state-wide recognition for backcountry search and rescue teams as a critical part of the first responder community, and the recognition that our member teams provide an indispensable service to the residents of and visitors to Colorado.”

Jeff Sparhawk is an attorney with 12 years of private practice experience focused on non-profit law,  small business transactional matters, trust and estate planning and entity formation. He has over 30  year’s experience as a volunteer rescuer with Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, as a search dog handler with Front Range Rescue Dogs, and has served on CSAR’s board for nearly eight years, the last four as president.  He worked closely with Colorado state legislators to help write and advocate for Senate Bill 21 – 245.

“Congratulations to Jeff Sparhawk as the first executive director of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association. Jeff has dedicated significant personal time and energy to raising awareness of the new challenges our Colorado search and rescue teams are facing – from increased and more complicated calls for rescue to long term funding issues to healthcare and mental health support for search and rescue volunteers,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources.  “Jeff is the right person for the job as Colorado search and rescue teams rise to these new challenges and Coloradans are recreating in our outdoors – and getting lost or needing rescue assistance – in record numbers.”