We interview James Wesley, Rawles, author of How To Survive the End of the World as We Know It, and expert on survival topics on the details of choosing a survival or homestead property in Oregon.
Oregon has a legacy dating back to pioneer days, with the Oregon Trail, and a long history of ranching, farming, and homesteading. This made it a destination for people moving west in the 1800s. How does it stack up today?
Oregon has one of the lowest potentials for natural disasters of any state in the union. There’s not near the earthquake risk of California, there is some tsunami risk right on the coast, and just up the Columbia River Valley. There is a minuscule chance of volcanic eruptions, but otherwise Oregon is one of the safest states, to live in. It also has a relatively low crime rate, especially in rural communities. There’s very low rate of disaster, and thus very low rates for car insurance. Home insurance rates are very low because there’s not tornadoes, or floods or whatever. The state, geographically and in terms of climate, and its growing season is quite good, and the population density east of the Cascades, is just about ideal for retreats. Oregon has changed tremendously in the last 25 years, in a lot of ways. Oregon has come under the influence of a lot of California-style politics.
Mel Tappan was a notable forerunner of the Survivalist movement of the 70s and 80s, and he was an early proponent of relocation based on survivability. He ultimate chose the Rogue River Valley as his preferred locale and settled there. What drove that choice?
He did. The Rogue River Valley still has a large number of survivalists who relocated after being inspired by Tappan, or descended from those folks! There were several reasons underlying his choice of Southern Oregon.
First, he wanted to be away from the population center of California, and he could see the handwriting on the wall in terms of California’s drift into liberal politics.
The second, key appeal of Oregon is the fact that Oregon, south of Salem, has no nuclear targets. Because it is on the West Coast, it’s not downwind of any possible targets in the continental US, because the prevailing wind is westerly. If there was a nuclear exchange with Russia, the people in Southern Oregon would actually receive more residual fallout carried over the Pacific from Russia than from any strikes on the US. From the standpoint of a nuclear event, Southwest Oregon may literally be the safest place in the entire United States.
Can you explain a bit more about Oregon’s political makeup, and shifts, and what the long term outlook might be?
I don’t recommend Oregon as much as I used to, but do hold out hope that in the long run, Eastern Oregon will partition from the Western half of the state, and become the 51st or 52nd state of the Union. There’s a strong Liberty State movement in Washington, and a similar movement in Oregon. In both cases, the state legislature and bulk of population is located west of the Cascades, and the majority of the legislature represents the heavily populated areas on the coast, rather than the rural and conservative population, especially inland. This has developed a political divide between the eastern and western portions of these two states that I think it’s almost inevitable that they will partition, simply due to the economic, political, and cultural differences.
While the idea of state partition may seem farfetched today, it has a proven track record in the partition of multiple North-South and East-West states. The State of Jefferson movement preceded any of the recent movements, and is not a novel idea.
If or when partition does take place, and there is a state of East Oregon or whatever it would be called, it would be worth considering. One other thing along the lines of state partition is that there’s a simultaneous movement called the state of Jefferson movement, which actually incorporates would incorporate both little portion of Northern California, and all of Southwestern Oregon into what’s called the state of Jefferson.
The Jefferson State project actually predated World War II, and it was just coming into full swing in December of 1941, when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened and completely distracted everyone! The state partition movement was of course sidelined for decades. If it were not for World War II, we might already be discussing Jefferson rather than Oregon.
So are there areas that carry some of these same benefits in adjoining states that are worth considering?
Yes, for example, just across the Snake River from Ontario, OR is Payette, Idaho. There is some really good farming country that is just outside of Oregon, where you wouldn’t be subjected to Oregon’s taxes, zoning, and gun control laws, and all of those unfortunately are on the upswing.
And of course, I’m a long time proponent of Idaho, especially the Panhandle, but also including southern Idaho.
But if someone could deal with (or likes) Oregon’s laws, taxes, and zoning, from a survival standpoint, it’s actually a great choice. The demographics, geography, climate, and natural resources are wonderful.
Could you share some of your insights on specific regions in Oregon that might be worth investigating in more detail?
One of the main areas that I like the Grand Ronde Valley, which is the valley that runs north-south through the town of the same name. It is primarily ranching country, it’s very lightly populated, it has a fairly diverse economy in that there’s ranching and some farming—mainly hay cutting. There’s timber and high country on either side of the river valley, there was a lot of timber and there’s a lot of logging that goes on, so it’s a fairly diverse economy.
There’s some other pretty nice areas to consider too. The John Day area is quite nice. Really, there are appealing communities in the Cascade foothills on both sides. For example, outside of Pendleton, or in the Bend-Redmond area. Bend especially is becoming a well-developed small city, but there’s excellent rural areas not far away.
Especially look at the Southern Willamette Valley, especially starting about 20 miles south of Albany. There are heavily populated areas, but a lot of it is old-fashioned farming country. And then of course, once you’re south of Eugene, you’re truly in South Western Oregon, and anywhere from Cottage Grove down to the state line is a beautiful area and good choice.
I used to recommend the Umpqua River Valley, but now, with more attention to the seismic and tsunami risk, I can’t fully commend it, at least in the lower reaches. Of course, once you move a short distance inland, this concern is irrelevant.
What specific advice would you give someone with ties to the coast, especially due to family, medical, or work needs in Portland?
Staying close to Portland, as you head out of Oregon City you head into the foothills and into national forest. You get away from the metro area, and heading through small towns like Molalla.
It’s also worth looking west of Portland, if you’re willing to go beyond “normal” commute distances. It’s more mountainous and land is less available, but it is lightly populated, and somewhat more affordable.
Why Choose Oregon
In conclusion, what is your evaluation of Oregon, and what might encourage someone to choose to relocate there?
I think Oregon is a good location, for people in California to consider if they still have family ties or business ties in California that would require them to be fairly close by. And for the nuclear and climate concerns, it at the top of the list.
I don’t consider it an ideal all-around retreat location, but in terms of looking at different scenarios, I think Oregon would pull through just fine if the power grid stays up. Even in situations where the western power grid would collapse, because there is so much hydro-electric power in Oregon it is much more likely to be reconstituted very quickly. I do consider it a safer place to be in terms of population density, especially east of the Cascades, where it is just about ideal.
Those people who haven’t yet been to Oregon really have no idea just how large the state is. Once you get in the eastern portion of the state, the population density is just a few people per square mile, there are miles and miles of open spaces. In any kind of natural disaster, whether it be a disruption of society or in a man-made disaster, like an economic collapse, I think that it would be a fine place, to be.