American Redoubt attracts survivalists, disaffected Californians
HAYDEN, Idaho - Don and Jonna Bradway recently cashed out of the stock market and invested in gold and silver. They have stockpiled food and ammunition in the event of a total economic collapse or some other calamity commonly known around here as “The End of the World As We Know It” or “SHTF” - the day something hits the fan.
After six decades living in Auburn and Orange County, the Bradways left a state they said is run by “leftists and non-Constitutionalists and anti-freedom people,” and settled on several wooded acres of north Idaho five years ago. They live among like-minded conservative neighbors, host Monday night Bible study around their fire pit, hike in the mountains and fish from their boat. They melt lead to make their own bullets for sport shooting and hunting - or to defend themselves against marauders in a world-ending cataclysm.
“I’m not paranoid, I’m really not,” said Bradway, 68, a cheerful Army veteran with a bushy handlebar mustache who favors Hawaiian shirts. “But we’re prepared. Anybody who knows us knows that Don and Jonna are prepared if and when it hits the fan.”
The Bradways are among the vanguard moving to an area of the Pacific Northwest known as the American Redoubt, a term coined in 2011 by survivalist author and blogger James Wesley, Rawles (the comma is deliberate) to describe a settlement of the God-fearing in a lightly populated territory that includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon.
Those migrating to the Redoubt are some of the most motivated members of what is known as the prepper movement, which advocates readiness and self-reliance in preparation for man-made or natural disasters that could create instability for years.
They are anxious about recent terrorist attacks from Paris to San Bernardino to Orlando, Florida; pandemics such as Ebola in West Africa; potential nuclear attacks from increasingly provocative countries such as North Korea or Iran; and the growing political, economic and racial polarization in the United States that has deepened during the 2016 presidential election.
Nationally, dozens of online prepper suppliers report an increase in sales of items from water purifiers to hand-cranked radios to solar-powered washing machines. Harvest Right, a Utah company that invented a $3,000 portable freeze dryer to preserve food, has seen sales grow from about 80 a month two years ago to more than 900 a month now, said spokesman Stephanie Barlow.
Clyde Scott, owner of Rising S Bunkers, said pre-made, blast-proof underground steel bunkers are in big demand, including his most popular model, which sleeps six to eight people and sells for up to $150,000.
“Anybody with a peanut-sized brain,” he said, can see that the U.S. economy is in perilous shape because of the national debt, the decline of American manufacturing and the size of the welfare rolls.
Some people worry about hurricanes, earthquakes or forest fires. Others fear a nuclear attack or solar flare that creates an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out the nation’s electric grid and all computers, sending the country into darkness and chaos - perhaps forever.
“The list is long; the concerns are many,” said Glenn Martin, who lives in north Idaho and runs Prepper Broadcasting Network, an online radio station. “Imagine a societal collapse and trying to buy a loaf of bread in Los Angeles or New York and stores are closed down.”
Martin’s programming emphasizes gardening, farming and how-to shows about sustainable living more than “doom and gloom,” he said, and his audience has grown from 50,000 listeners a month two years ago to about 250,000 a month now.
Interest in movement grows
Online interest in prepper and American Redoubt websites is increasing. Tools that measure online readership show that monthly search traffic to Rawles’s survivalblog.com has doubled since 2011; an estimate from SimilarWeb, a Web analytics firm, shows that the site had about 862,000 total visits last month.
In response to all the uncertainty, more and more preppers are not simply stocking up at home. They are moving their homes - to the Redoubt, a seldom-used term for stronghold or fortress.
It is impossible to know exactly how many people have come over the past few years, but newcomers, real estate agents, local officials and others said it was in the hundreds, or perhaps even a few thousand, across all five states.
Here, they live in a pristine place of abundant water and fertile soil, far from urban crime, free from most natural disasters and populated predominantly by conservative, mostly Christian people with a live-and-let-live ethos and local governments with a light regulatory touch and friendly gun laws.
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