Idaho Retreats with James Wesley, Rawles – Part 1

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Where does Idaho rank as an area for survival relocation?

JWR: I would actually rank Idaho as the very best state, the first state out of 50 in ranking as a survival location. I think it has a lot of tremendous advantages, most notably its isolation from major population centers and its diverse economy. And in North Idaho, its plentiful water.

What’s the difference between North Idaho and the rest of the state?

JWR: There are demographic differences and hydrologic differences and economic differences and vegetative differences. Demographically, Idaho is dominated by the LDS church and it’s more economically tied to Salt Lake City. Northern Idaho is much more religiously diverse, and it’s less than 20%, LDS and it’s economically tied to Spokane, Washington. Northern Idaho, in fact, is on the same time zone as Washington state, whereas Southern Idaho is on mountain time, which is the same time zone as Utah. Hydrologically there is far more water available and more reliable rainfall in Northern Idaho than Southern Idaho. And in terms of vegetation, Northern Idaho is predominantly a heavily timbered, whereas Southern Idaho is essentially desert and sparsely timbered and that mainly only at the higher elevations.

Are there advantages or notable areas to consider in Southern Idaho?

JWR: I would recommend the entire Salmon Idaho region, all the way from Salmon, especially Salmon north, up into the River of No Return area up toward Shoup. I would also recommend anywhere off of the highway 95 corridor north of Eagle, Idaho. As long as you’re not right on that corridor, you should probably be fine. The population density drops off dramatically anywhere north of the town of the Eagle, which is a suburban community, north of Boise.

remote Idaho highway

Southern Idaho offers abundant open space, and low population density outside the Boise area.

What are the downsides to North Idaho?

JWR: The biggest disadvantage of north Idaho is its proximity to the major population center of Spokane, Washington. To mitigate that, I would recommend that people look at property that is at least a one-hour drive out of Spokane, preferably a two-hour drive out of Spokane, just to mitigate that risk that would be posed in the amidst of a grid down collapse. In anything less than a grid down collapse. I don’t consider the Spokane population center to be a significant risk.

The other drawback of North Idaho is heavy snowfall. That could be either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the situation. If it’s a grid down collapse and a barrier of sorts is desired to isolate North Idaho from the population center of Spokane, Washington, then heavy snowfall and the lack of snow plowing could be an advantage. But in most circumstances where normal commerce is desired, then if we did have a grid down collapse and there was a shortage of fuel and it was difficult or impossible for snow plows to make their usual runs then the heavy snowfall could end up isolating North Idaho for anywhere from three to five months out of each year. So, that’s something to consider certainly in terms of family, food storage, and fuel storage, especially firewood and liquid fuels.

north Idaho river

At northern latitudes, Idaho offers abundant water and natural resources.

Is Idaho suitable for solar power?

JWR: The number of available sun days are lower in north Idaho than Southern Idaho, simply because Southern Idaho is essentially an arid or semi-arid climate. You have far less cloud cover and the efficiency of a photovoltaic power system will be much higher. So, the way you would make up for that in North Idaho is by having additional solar panels. Essentially, you’re going to need anywhere from 20% to 40% more than in latitudes, and of course, you’re gonna have to be diligent about using a soft broom to keep your solar panels swept clean of snow daily.

Does Idaho have good hydroelectric power options?

JWR: Yes, because so many properties have either large springs or they are on creeks or rivers. There is the potential for the installation of micro-hydro systems, and of course, the great advantage overall in north Idaho is the large number of hydroelectric dams, which have turbines spinning year round on the Clark Fork river and on the Kootenay River, for example. The power generating capacity there is tremendous. It’s far greater than what the region itself needs. The entire Pacific Northwest is a power exporting region, but particularly in North Idaho and adjoining Northwestern Montana, the amount of power produced versus the population is completely asymmetrical. You have far more power than the local populous will need and in the event of a grid down collapse, all of the local power co-ops stand ready to island their power.

Why does a local power supply matter? What is islanding?

JWR: Islanding is where a local power utility, even in the midst of a grid down collapse, where the entire Western power grid would be down, they could reconstitute power in some cases in a matter of just moments. If the grid were to go down, they would reconstitute power to their local vicinity, and that would probably be depending on weather conditions and local power lines going down in winter weather, it could be safely assumed that power could be reconstituted in an area anywhere within say a 100 or 150 miles of any major hydroelectric dam. The power routing varies. There are inter-ties with BPA power. BPA stands for Bonneville Power Administration, but most of these local power co-ops are ready to reconstitute power locally and island their power.

What is Idaho’s culture like?

JWR: Well, I think it will be a breath of fresh air for any one coming in from any more heavily populated state. Idaho, in a lot of ways is an old-fashioned state that’s very conservative politically. It has a very strong tradition of the right to keep and bear arms. Idaho has a permit-less concealed carry. It’s also an open carry State, a vehicular carry state, and essentially, there’s very few restrictions on firearms and the political will to keep it that way in the long term. Idaho is also very strong on homeschooling. It has some of the most favorable homeschooling laws in the country, with no need to have any government supervision of homeschooling families.

Idaho is also fairly self-sufficient in terms of gardening, livestock. A large portion of the population hunts and fishes. There’s a lot of berry picking that goes on. People are… And, of course, many people cut their own firewood. So from a self-sufficiency standpoint, I think anyone moving in from a state like California or Nevada or from western Oregon or western Washington, will be pleasantly surprised at how self-sufficient the population of north Idaho is, and how generally people value their privacy and they value the family unit as the real centerpiece of society.

North Idahoans tend to be fiercely independent and very loyal to their neighbors. They’re already in the habit of doing things for themselves. In a place like eastern Washington or north Idaho or western Montana, if a tree goes down across a highway, people don’t stop and break out their cell phones and call for assistance. They break out their chainsaws and they clear it themselves. If a neighbor or anyone, any motorist, ends up off the side of the highway in a ditch, a lot of people carry tow chains or tow straps and will just simply tow people out themselves. Of course, there’s always exceptions, but a significant portion of the population is very old-fashioned, conservative, and tend to be fairly religious. You can find neighbors that you can count on, whether it’s in just bad weather or whether it’s really bad times.


We discuss the details of Idaho relocation, including opportunities for work and business, as well as the cultural differences, in Part 2!


James Wesley, RawlesJames Wesley, Rawles is the best-selling author of the Patriots novel series, founder of SurvivalBlog.com, and the originator of the American Redoubt.

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