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Originally published February 9, 2012 at 6:07 PM | Page modified February 9, 2012 at 7:56 PM

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Economy, blogs give survivalists new reason to look to Northwest

While white separatists for years have called for a racial homeland in the inland Pacific Northwest, an even bigger movement of survivalists, Christian fundamentalists and political doomsayers is fueling the idea of a defensible retreat west of the Rockies.

Los Angeles Times

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SPOKANE — The American Redoubt lies in the high country of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Eastern Washington and Oregon.

For a growing number of people, it's the designated point of retreat when the economy hits the fan. When banks fail, the government declares martial law, the power grid goes down. When warming oceans flood coasts and a resurgent Russia takes out Eastern Seaboard targets.

While white separatists for years have called for a racial homeland in the inland Pacific Northwest, an even bigger movement of survivalists, Christian fundamentalists and political doomsayers is fueling the idea of a defensible retreat west of the Rockies.

Armed with stocks of brown rice, weapons, battery-operated radios and razor wire, many are preparing isolated homesteads that can be turned into armed fortifications when groceries disappear from stores and hordes of city-dwellers flee a flu pandemic or run out of oil.

The guru of the movement is James Wesley Rawles, a former Army intelligence officer and author of the best-seller "Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse."

The book tells of military veterans who lead bands of tough-minded Americans through a period of marauding rioters and the collapse of the supply chain and technology, and of a provisional government "determined to take over America and destroy the freedoms upon which it was built."

Rawles, a former editor at Defense Electronics magazine and technical writer at Oracle, in 2005 started what has become one of the country's most widely read survival blogs, which claims to attract up to 300,000 unique visitors a week. He published one of the bibles of modern survivalist tactics, "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It," in 2009.

Places such as northern Idaho and western Montana always have been ripe territory; the low mountains around Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and Montana's Flathead Valley long have had more than their share of cabins populated by wary loners. But Rawles has given a name to this idealized retreat — the American Redoubt — and framed the geography.

It's impossible to say how many have heeded the call — analysts say it's probably not all that many so far — but adherents say that's because the need is only now becoming apparent. Boise last year hosted a survivalist trade show featuring electric generators, dehydrated food and water-purification devices.

With the rising federal debt and prospects for another credit crisis, Rawles said by telephone, "it could turn into a full-scale economic rout in short order. And under circumstances like that, I have encouraged my readers for many years to relocate themselves in lightly populated agricultural regions that are well-removed from major population centers, where there'll be large-scale rioting and possibly looting in the event of an economic crisis."

Rawles has his retreat, but don't ask him where.

The most he will say is he lives on a ranch — presumably in Redoubt territory.

He said he has livestock, three years' worth of food, a functioning garden and the weapons needed to hold back the hordes.

"Because of the nature of my blog," Rawles said of the secrecy of his location, "I'm in an almost unique situation, in that I might be considered the go-to guy for 160,000 survival blog readers.

"I don't want to be that guy. I don't want anyone knowing where I live, because some morning I may wake up and find my barnyard full of tents and yurts and RVs."

In Idaho and northwestern Montana, hotbeds of American Redoubt sentiment, websites offer help finding jobs in the new homeland until the time for full retreat is at hand, as well as lists of sympathetic churches.

Some feature real-estate agents who can find that 20-acre hilltop parcel, invisible from the road, with solar power. (Try Revolutionary Realty in Northern Idaho or IdahoJoe Realty, run by Joe Rohner of Boise, who bills himself as a "redoubt Realtor.")

"Interest is growing," Rohner said. "A lot of people have come here, and a lot that none of us know about, because a lot of them do it on their own. It's a growing movement that's not very centralized, and probably never will be, because these people tend to be kind of secretive anyway."

Chuck Baldwin, a prominent conservative preacher and radio host — and 2008 presidential candidate for the Constitution Party — has bought in.

In a message to supporters, he credited Rawles' vision of the American Redoubt for helping shape his vision for his family's future.

"It is our studied opinion that America is headed for an almost certain cataclysm," Baldwin wrote. "As Christians, we suspect that this cataclysm could include the judgment of God. As students of history, we believe that this cataclysm will most certainly include a fight between Big-Government globalists and freedom-loving, independent-minded patriots. I would even argue that this fight has already started." On his website, Baldwin has appropriated some of Rawles' checklist items for those he is encouraging to populate the Redoubt.

Develop a home-based business, Baldwin says; bring your guns; home-school your children.

"Make a clean break by selling your house and any rental properties," he advises. "You aren't coming back."

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