Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Archived article- Leasing as a retreat option?

Archived article from our main site-

Leasing as a retreat option? copyright 2006 Robert Henry

The single biggest expense for the survivalist is usually buying land and building the infrastructure needed for a survival retreat.

As if it wasn't expensive enough to begin with, increasing land costs in most areas of the country are making a retreat harder to attain for most individuals and small groups.

I've never advocated a group purchase of land. Having regularly consulted with dozens of groups and hundreds of individuals around the country in the last ten years I can say that I've found only one example of that working. That group is the exception rather than the rule. The reason it worked for them was that they were already a long established group- although not a survival group- and already had a true sense of community built up. By "long established" I mean in excess of 30 years.

On the negative side of the group purchase of land are the stories of people who have lost there investment when the group went south. Two long time friends, both survivalists at the time, purchased a modest amount of land together in the midwest. Several years later one of the two decided he was no longer "into" preparedness and wanted to use the land for other purposes. The remaining survivalist of the two now has to deal with the fact that his bug out location has been compromised due to the other fellow inviting many friends there for hunting and outdoor activities.

Most numerous of the examples of retreats that worked are those of individual survivalists. These are your classic single family retreats as talked about by Mel Tappan almost 30 years ago.

Some of these have become de facto group retreats. Usually this involves the land owner "inviting" others from the group to pre-position supplies and perhaps establish some sort of housing at the land. The landowner remains the sole owner of the property so this negates any squabbles about land usage. If a group member decides to leave the group he simply comes and gets any supplies he has pre-positioned. This negates the problems relating to dividing up the land if the relationship fails.

The all too thrown about notion of "we will buy 40 acres and then you'll get 10, I'll get 10 and Joe and Jack will each get 10" is unfeasible in my opinion also. For the same reasons mentioned above. Consider also that each 10 acre parcel would have to develop it's own infrastructure- a well for each parcel, septics for each parcel, building for each parcel. This method is no different than going it alone only that you assume that there are 3 other families to help you when the chips are down.

To that I would argue that unless the dwellings are within VISIBLE and viewable (i.e, no trees or hills in the way) rifle distance of each other, defense will be dangerous at best. An attack on Joe's parcel would theoretically draw help from the other three parcels. If they are out of viewing distance and rifle distance this means each family has to send some of there defenders to help Joe out. My first question would be that if the chips were down, would they. My second comment would be that if they did, it would leave there parcels undefended. Are these guys well trained enough to coordinate such a defense? What's to stop friendly fire accidents during the defense? What if the attack is just a feint? What if it's a ruse to ambush the others coming to Joe's aid? A very real possibility.

OK you say, then we will each build near where the corners of the land meets. That will help solve the defensibility issue for sure. But what happens when Joe Bob decides he's not "into" this anymore and looks at his investment of land as a hunting camp? Next thing you know you got drunk Bubba's wandering around your place every weekend during hunting season.

What about for those of us without the big dollars to make the investment in land? First let me preface the following ideas with the fact that you do not need 100 acres of land. Unless you have a large group (50+) you should not need more than perhaps 40 acres. That's assuming the land is good, defense is possible, enough of a woodlot, water sources, etc. etc.

Let's say you realize the need for a bugout location for your family or your group but cannot come with the money necessary.

I'm going to throw an idea out at you, to my knowledge this has not been discussed before in survival circles but it might bear investigating.

Leasing land for a bug out location.

I know, sounds kookey as all get out. But let's think about this.

It's common in rural areas for people to lease land for hunting. This is usually timberland where someone is raising a 20 or 30 year crop of trees for sale to lumber mills. The extra income from the hunting lease will usually pay the property taxes on the land. Most hunting clubs will normally "police" the land also, helping to keep out trespassers thus helping the property owner.

You would have to seek a long term lease of at least 5-10 years. To make this really work out your going to need to lock the land in for at least 5 years or more. There is going to be some improvements to the land you will absolutely have to make in order to make it worthwhile for a survival retreat.

The question has likely came up by now- what happens if TSHTF and the owner comes and tells you to leave? Well, if you have a legal lease and have kept up with your payments, legally he has no right to. Now will that stop him from trying? Of course not. Here is where judicious picking of land and checking out the landowner will come in handy. An elderly couple, small family that does not live on the land your leasing, or an absentee owner would be ideal. I would assume that if you keep good relations with the landowner this would not be a problem as you would be within your legal rights. A group could in theory offer "protection" in this case if the landowner lived nearby. No I don't mean "protection" as in Mafia terms. Consider also that an absentee owner would probably have no idea that you've essentially "moved" to the land if TSHTF.

Land leases and the laws pertaining to will vary from state to state. Read up on real estate laws in your particular state. Might be worthwhile to have an attorney draw up your land lease agreement. At the minimum the lease agreement should include the time period, the amount per year, an agreement to allow certain betterments to the land- putting in garden areas, fruit trees, stocking a pond perhaps, etc, as well as not granting any other leases for any other reasons. Make sure it allows year round access.

Where I live, about $7.00 an acre per year seems to be a fair rate for land leases for hunting.

Improvements you will have to make to the land-

Gate off any roads or trails coming in to the land. Post no trespassing signs. For OPSEC purposes get a sign shop to make up signs for your "hunting club." Post these at the entrances and near any structures you put up. Under the guise of a hunting club, ocassional shooting will not raise any eyebrows.

Small RV's, travel trailers and even portable buildings are commonly seen in areas leased by hunting clubs. A 20' sealand container on site could solve some of the logistics storage problems. If your unsure of doing that, find a local "self storage" center within quick driving distance and pre-position your supplies there. Bury the minimum amount of supplies you can at the site itself. Leave nothing in any dwellings that would point to the true purpose of the land. Ammo, water filters, camoflage clothing would be fine, gas masks, razor wire and survey meters would set off red flags.

Water could be handled a couple of ways. Since you leased land that had a water source you could always filter your water. Katadyn Drip filters or Berkfields could be used for filtering ground water. Ideally the land would have a well on it of some sort that you could power via a generator. If not, talk with local well drillers to find out average depth to water in that area. It may be possible to drive your own well and put a hand pump on it.

You can develop the soil for gardens and make them look like "food plots" that hunters commonly use for bringing in deer. The same mixes of wheat, alfalfa, etc. that are used in these "deer mixes" make good cover crops to enrich the soil with.

I don't see why this plan would not work out for a small group of motivated people. The expense would be minor compared to purchasing land and developing the infrastructure for a real retreat. Is this plan lacking? Of course, but it's probably the next best thing to owning your own retreat. And it definitely puts a survival retreat in reach of any serious survivalist.

Least of all, it would also provide a place for a group to train and practice outdoor skills that would be semi-secure.

Let me know what you think of this idea. My email address is

Hope this helps.


Blaik said...

I think this idea shows promise, but there are a couple of concerns I would have with this type of plan. The first being you would really need to have a good gauge of how sympathetic to being prepared the owner is. Not to say you need to find someone that is going to be gung ho with you (although that wouldn't hurt). But at the same time, but you don't want the owner showing up without warning and finding you and your group engaged in anything that at a first glance looks like it could be terrorist type training. Granted, they are somewhat similar, just same means to different ends. But the last thing you want is the one of the many gov'tal acronyms descending upon your retreat and confiscating all of your stuff because the owner thought you were planning the next 9/11, ya know? Also, depending on what kind of owner they are, you may want to introduce them into preparedness training. They may be interested, but know no one through which they can find out more about it. My grandpa for example, he owns land that he sometimes leases, both farm and forest land. He hunts so he doesn't lease it all out, but he wouldn't know enough about the internet to get on here and look up sites like yours, but if someone were to lease from him and talk to him about it, I'm sure they'd find him a willing participant when it was all said and done. Heck they may even donate you the land to help further the cause or reduce the rate you lease it at.

All in all I think this idea has much merit, but would definitely have to be well thought through and explored thoroughly from a legal standpoint.

Robert Henry said...

Very good points Blaik, thanks for the comment!