History of Priest Lake Search & Rescue

Why The PLSAR Team Was Formed

A need was recognized by Mike Nielsen, the Founder, for a professionally trained and properly equipped local SAR (Search and Rescue) Unit. There were two major incidents that moved Nielsen to organize PLSAR in 2001:

  • Priest Lake had suffered under very oppressive "marine law enforcement service" on Priest Lake from BCSO in 1998-99. This poor quality police service resulted in extremely poor citizen/business & law enforcement public relations. The local anger grew and finally erupted in a gun battle between a Marine Deputy and a local resident. While Nielsen understood the anger and resentment that had developed, he could not condone anyone shooting at a peace officer.
  • The second incident came during NOV 2000; there were two local hunters missing for several days over the Thanksgiving Holiday. The SAR Team had to come from Sandpoint and took several hours to muster. Local residents were barred from participating in the search and even threatened with arrest if they entered the search area. This incident also resulted in a public relations disaster for BCSO, as had a previous incident at Echo Bowl a year or two earlier.

Nielsen, having spent most of his career in law enforcement at the supervisory and command level, recognized both the need for a local SAR Team comprised of local residents with local knowledge of the area, and an opportunity to make a positive impact on law enforcement and community relations. Since SAR falls under the county sheriff by Idaho Code, Nielsen knew they could change attitudes at both BCSO and Priest Lake, by working together.

Nielsen believed a local team comprised primarily of Priest Lake residents working under the new sheriff (who was taking office in JAN 2001) could achieve both of these objectives. Nielsen met with the new sheriff who welcomed the endeavor and the opportunity to turn the poor public relations around. Consequently, PLSAR held its first organizational meeting in JAN 2001 and became operational in SEP 2001.