Letter Re: Why Is Utah Not in the American Redoubt?

Dear Mr. R.:
Why don’t you include Utah in your American Redoubt states? I’m asking because we’re right next door [to the Redoubt region] and Utah seems so much like the Redoubt states in so many ways. Just curious. – L.W.J.

JWR Replies: Although Utah’s crime rate, taxes, and insurance rates are low and family food storage is quite popular there, the state has several distinct drawbacks. They include:

  • Utah is is not an open carry state. A government-issued permit is required to carry a fully-loaded gun openly. I find that abhorrent.
  • Utah is a predominantly desert state. In the event of a grid-down situation, nearly all of the irrigated farmland in Utah will quickly revert to desert. Even with electrically-pumped irrigation water, the state would be hard-pressed to feed itself if it became economically isolated. (Most of their groceries are trucked in from California.)
  • Utah’s annual precipitation is generally low, quite regionally isolated, very seasonal, and much of it comes in the form of snow. By comparison, most of the Redoubt has more evenly distributed precipitation, annually. (One exception is eastern Oregon, which is also fairly arid.)
  • Utah is a net energy importer. By comparison, the Redoubt states are all energy exporters. (In Utah, coal is used to generate about 90 percent of the state’s electricity. In 2010, Utah imported 3.3 million short tons of coal to make up the shortfall for its power plants.) This is not an issue in Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Montana, which are powered predominantly with hydroelectric power. Wyoming gets most of its power from coal and natural gas, but unlike Utah, Wyoming is a net exporter of coal, oil, and natural gas. Virtually all of Utah’s coal is used for either electricity generation or by local copper and steel industries. The bottom line is that the state has insufficient coal production to meet its growing needs, and its production is gradually decreasing. But at least its natural gas supply appears to be improving.
  • Utah’s population density is fairly high compared to the Redoubt counties, and rapidly growing. (It now has 34.3 people per square mile–a substantial jump from around 28 per square mile when I first formally evaluated the state, six years ago.) Most of the Redoubt counties range from 3 to 10 people per square mile, and most of those counties are seeing much more gradual growth than in Utah. (Take note that the Redoubt region does not include the more populous western halves of Oregon and Washington.)
  • Given the tight-knit family bonds of Mormon families, I predict that the population of the state would at least double in the event of any “slow slide” nationwide disaster. (It is safe to assume that their large extended families will immediately “flock back to the nest,” as long as highways remain passable.)
  • Utah has fairly strict home schooling laws, with mandatory registration.
  • Utah has a growing criminal gang problem which is unheard of in most of the Redoubt counties. (Although there is some gang activity in southeastern Washington.)

So all in all, I don’t believe that Utah has enough plusses to qualify it for inclusion in the Redoubt region list. But of course my qualifications for inclusion in the Redoubt are subjective. They are also skewed toward survivability in the absence of grid power. If the grid stays up, then parts of Utah would probably be quite viable.