CONCORD, N.H. — A Massachusetts teenager who spent three nights alone on the Northeast’s highest mountain no longer owes the state of New Hampshire more than $25,000 for the cost of his rescue.

Officials with the state Fish and Game Department and attorney general’s office said Friday they have decided not to pursue the fine they imposed on Scott Mason of Halifax, Mass., after his rescue from Mount Washington in April 2009.

Authorities initially praised the 17-year-old Eagle Scout for using his survival skills — sleeping in the crevice of a boulder and jump-starting fires with hand-sanitizing gel. Three months later, they sent him a bill for $25,734.65, saying he was negligent in veering off the marked path, continuing up the mountain after he sprained his ankle and not being prepared for melting snow that made a shortcut perilous.

On Thursday, they sent a letter to Mason’s attorney saying they remained confident in their case but were dropping it for now because of Mason’s “personal circumstances and condition.”

“He’s an Eagle Scout who’s headed off to college. Clearly, he’s not in a position to pay these recovery costs back to the state,” Attorney General Michael Delaney said Friday.

Fish and Game Lt. Kevin Jordan said there was a lot of compromise on both sides. Mason’s family sent the state $1,000.

“We’ve reached what all of us believe is a reasonable conclusion that pursuing the reimbursement at this time would not be appropriate,” Jordan said.

Mason’s attorney, Pamela Kogut, said her client and his family were grateful to New Hampshire rescuers and appreciative of the decision to drop the fine. Mason is now 18 and a senior in high school.

“We have long maintained that Scott took his responsibility as a safe hiker very seriously, and that he was not negligent,” she said. “We also believe that for a young man and a hardworking middle-class family, assessment of more than $25,000 was not warranted.”

The fine was the largest of its kind ever imposed in New Hampshire, one of eight states with laws allowing billing for rescue costs.

Three states besides New Hampshire — Hawaii, Oregon and Maine — have laws allowing agencies to bill for rescues, but only Maine has tried to recoup money a handful of times and the bills were never paid, according to an Associated Press review last year. California, Vermont, Colorado and Idaho have laws allowing state agencies to bill in limited circumstances, but the laws are rarely enforced.

National search-and-rescue groups dislike the laws. They worry that the possibility of big bills could cause hikers to delay calling for help, putting them and rescuers at greater risk.

“This is a unique case, I don’t think it establishes any precedent in other cases,” Jordan said.


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