A movement of staunch conservatives and doomsday-watchers to the inland north-west is quietly gaining steam
BONNERS FERRY, COEUR D’ALENE AND SANDPOINT, IDAHO — ASKED by an out-of-stater where the nearest shooting range is, Patrick Leavitt, an affable gunsmith at Riverman Gun Works in Coeur d’Alene, says: “This is Idaho–you can shoot pretty much anywhere away from buildings.” That is one reason why the sparsely populated state is attracting a growing number of “political refugees” keen to slip free from bureaucrats in America’s liberal states, says James Wesley, Rawles (yes, with a comma), an author of bestselling survivalist novels. In a widely read manifesto posted in 2011 on his survivalblog.com, Mr Rawles, a former army intelligence officer, urged libertarian-leaning Christians and Jews to move to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and a strip of eastern Oregon and Washington states, a haven he called the “American Redoubt”.
Thousands of families have answered the call, moving to what Mr Rawles calls America’s last big frontier and most easily defendable terrain. Were hordes of thirsty, hungry, panicked Americans to stream out of cities after, say, the collapse of the national grid, few looters would reach the mostly mountainous, forested and, in winter, bitterly cold Redoubt. Big cities are too far away. But the movement is driven by more than doomsday “redoubters”, eager to homestead on land with lots of water, fish, and big game nearby. The idea is also to bring in enough strongly conservative voters to keep out the regulatory creep smothering liberty in places like California, a state many redoubters disdainfully refer to as “the C-word”.
Estimates of the numbers moving into the Redoubt are sketchy, partly because many seek a low profile. Mr Rawles himself will not reveal which state he chose, not wanting to be overrun when “everything hits the fan”. But Chris Walsh of Revolutionary Realty says growing demand has turned into such a “massive upwelling” that he now sells about 140 properties a year in the north-western part of the Redoubt, its heart. To manage, Mr Walsh, a pilot, keeps several vehicles at landing strips to which he flies clients from his base near Coeur d’Alene.
Many seek properties served not with municipal water but with a well or stream, ideally both, just in case. More than nine out of every ten Revolutionary Realty clients either buy a home off the grid or plan to sever the connection and instead use firewood, propane and solar panels, often storing the photovoltaic power in big forklift batteries bought second-hand. They also plan to educate their children at home. The remoter land preferred by lots of “off-the-gridders” is often cheap. Revolutionary Realty sells sizeable plots for as little as $30,000. After that, settlers can mostly build as they please…Read more from The Economist