One of the prime considerations of anyone interested in preparing for a serious man-caused or natural disaster in the near future, is the matter of geography. James Rawles coined the concept of the American Redoubt, giving name and definition to an area widely-held to be ideal survival terrain. This area by one of its own main core criteria, is very low population density. But the majority of American people attempting to prepare are not in the American Redoubt. It is difficult for economic and other considerations to uproot and relocate there. More power to anyone seriously considering relocating to the American Redoubt. But in this piece, I will attempt to elucidate some viable eastern retreat options, specifically for folks in the Northeastern US.
The Eastern Seaboard of the United States, the so-called “Bo-Wash” corridor or Megalopolis, is straight off a nonstarter for survival in a crisis. While I may believe survival is very possible at much higher population densities than what Mr. Rawles considers optimum, at some population density point survival is out of the question. Population proximity is a vector for conflict and disease. That is not to say that there are not areas not extremely far away, but sufficiently far away where survival is very possible.
In the big picture, strategic sense there are some big pluses to the Eastern US, OUTSIDE OF THE MEGALOPOLIS. The first is that the climate and growing conditions are most amenable to pre-industrial means of farming. Our ancestors farmed the Eastern US for centuries before mechanization of agriculture and did just fine. lots of hard work, yes, but the climate is fine and a wealth of tried and true methods exist to make the most of this area’s growing conditions.
One of the keys to survival in any area of the east will be the coordination and defense of local areas by larger groups. This is not ranch country where lone individualists will make lone stands. The countryside of the Northeast, however, has a long tradition of organization at the town level. This will be key: People will have to engage with their neighbors and steer things the way they must go.
Another is outside of the obvious population-based nuclear targets in Megalopolis, there aren’t nearly as many military nuclear war targets in the Northeast as there are in the West and South. The Northeast has precious few military bases of note. The only Army base in the Northeast is Fort Drum in New York, on the Tug Hill Plateau. The West and the Plains have many more military targets, and the geography supports dispersion of radioactive fallout more readily. Play around with the variables at Nukemap and you’ll see what I mean.
Taking all of the negatives under advisement, in this piece I am going to lay out some viable options for relocation within the Northeast. If you are in this part of the nation, these are the sub regions to be in. Consider all information presented against your own judgement and background knowledge.
As shown in Figure 1, I’ll be discussing four potentially viable eastern retreat regions:
- New Hampshire, Vermont, and the Adirondacks
- Western New York/ Northern PA Mini Redoubt
- The Allegheny Mountains
One area that immediately pops to mind is Maine. The interior of Maine is a vast, lightly populated forest. The coast of Maine is the source of many fine fisheries, shellfish, and crustaceans accessible in a crisis. Most of those require a boat. Maine also has favorable gun laws. It really is as free as the states in the Rocky Mountain West. Its downsides are, however, considerable.
Maine was one of the first areas of the Atlantic Seaboard visited and colonized by Europeans. Unlike many other areas of early settlement, few people live there. This is partly due to the horrible fly season which made life very hard, and the hard winters. High elevation areas of the Redoubt also have hard winters, and its widely assumed than much as with other parasites, hard winters will have a way of dealing with the unprepared but mobile persons seeking to live off the hard work of others.
Maine is, like the rest of northern New England, in close proximity to additional population centers in Quebec. I believe this will not be a major issue due to a cultural preference of Quebecois to disperse into the countryside of Quebec rather than into the US in a crisis, despite the nominally more hospitable climate in Maine than in many rural parts of Quebec outside the immediate environs of the St Lawrence River Valley. Additionally, the Katahdin Mountains and surrounding Wilderness provide a barrier from the regions into the bulk of Maine.
Maine contains large tracts of both publicly owned and timber industry-owned forest. This will be a key asset to provide strategic depth in a conflict or even to avoid the spread of infectious disease. A prudent prepper in Maine will have both their primary homestead and plan to disappear into the forest.
Southeast Maine is also the most populated part of Maine, is close to Boston and is additionally the path of least resistance out of Boston. Stay out of the southeast corner of the stat. Prepare ample means of heating in winter, ample food storage, and a means of defense centered on co-operation with neighbors, and the state is actually excellent survival terrain. Parts such as Aroostook County and the traditional Potato farming area along the New Brunswick border are favored.
New Hampshire, Vermont, and the Adirondacks
This is classic rugged terrain. Many of these mountains were abandoned as marginal farmland a hundred years ago due to economics, but not before the ability to farm for subsistence was proven. Until recently, Vermont was one of the best states for gun owners, and New Hampshire remains so. If you live in New York, you must make your own choices about what constitutes legitimate authority to restrict your natural rights and your compliance with illegitimate laws. Politics aside, this is a pretty good area to hack it in when the going gets rough.
Figure 2- Cropland in the Northeast
There are significant dairy farming operations in Vermont and in the periphery of the Adirondacks. Besides these cattle herds and a variety of small organic-type operations, food production is currently very limited. It will be IMPERATIVE for people in this region to plant as much as they possibly can at any hint of a crisis. A prepared individual in this region will be looking very seriously at greenhousing, even preparing excess greenhouse capacity not used in good times, to be pressed into service in hard times.
Western New York/ Northern PA Mini Redoubt
This is the area I consider the best in the northeast and one of the best east of the Mississippi in the event of a crisis. Here we have a lower population density, excellent soil, a more traditional and conservative population (with all that entails about things like gun ownership, self-sufficiency, and civic participation), and ample defensible terrain. (See Figure 4, for some political demographic mapping.)
Figure 3- Soil Quality
Much of this area has not been heavily affected by population inflows from outside or inside the United States in the post-WW2 era. It is this author’s opinion that this will be a huge plus. One of the critical weaknesses of modern American society is the estrangement that comes from multiculturalism and a transient culture. If you have nothing in common with your neighbors you are not likely to work together in a crisis, whatever Hollywood tries to project.
The area surrounding the Finger Lakes in New York has an excellent micro-climate for growing wine grapes, with a well-established viticulture and a history hops production. Apple orchards are also abundant there, being the origin of the Cortland and Empire varieties. Dairy farms are found throughout the area especially heading toward Lake Erie and in the Genesee Country.
Within this region there is a large forested area in northwestern and northcentral Pennsylvania consisting of the Allegheny National Forest and a complex of several Pennsylvania State Forests. This will provide a strategic refuge in certain scenarios, including international conflict. Western New York has less concentrated forest but better farmland, on average.
Figure 4- 2016 Election Results Map
Lastly, I’d like to address the Allegheny Mountains region. The Allegheny Mountains are very low by the standards of most mountains, being very ancient and heavily eroded. This does not prevent them from being a formidable barrier to a traveler on foot. These mountains held up the westward progress of early settler for many decades. Within the narrow, finger-like valleys the soil is fertile (as seen in Figures 2 and 3) and the possibility of riding out a crisis is good, if certain externalities are not present.
The big negative of this region is the sandwich effect between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The viability of this region in a crisis is dependent on conditions in those areas and refugee/looter outflows from them. For instance, if people largely flow south or west from Pittsburgh, then you are golden. But if the region is crushed with double inflows from west and east, then negative conditions will be exacerbated.
Another big negative of this region is the existence of Continuity of Government locations on the periphery of this region at Site R, Camp David, Mt. Weather, and transmitting stations due west of Chambersburg. These are nuclear war targets and are likely to be surrounded by security cordons under effective martial law during any crisis.
I look forward to seeing your comments, in the Comments section.