Monday, 22 October 2012

Owning Woodland before the Crunch.

I am not a lawyer. Discuss any legal issues presented herein with a solicitor before acting.

There are a lot of arguments for owning things outright before the crunch comes. First and foremost, of course, is that the government cannot take it away from you, and you therefore have a permanent residence throughout the year, no matter what the socio-economic state of your country may be.
The United States of America covers an area of 3.79 Million square miles, including Hawaii and Alaska. The American government owns ~28.8% of this land, with ~2.5% of it being dedicated for military use. Only the North-western coast is heavily forested, with most of the rest of the country being arable plains.
Across the pond in England, however, we have only 50,350 square miles of land. However, 10% of this is forested and these forests are spread across the length and breadth of the country. Slightly further East, Europe covers 10.1 million square miles (including the United Kingdom), roughly a quarter of which is forested.
Therefore, in such high population density area such as these, where flat, arable land is at a premium (arable land ranges from about £69,000-£70,000 [Approximately $99,500-$112,000] for 6-7 acres), and set to increase in price by at least 10%[1] in the first half of next year, it may make more sense to buy a similarly sized plot of woodland/forest for roughly half the price (typically ranging upwards of £29,000 [$46,000] for between 2 and 5 acres[2]).
Of course neither of these types of land is available for development, but this article is not about constructing a primary retreat (which would represent a far more significant financial outlay). It is instead to provide insight into the advantages which can be gained from ownership of forest or woodland.
First of all, as a secondary retreat location, forests offer great defensive locations. The flat plains of America are often referred to by preppers as “Tanker Country”, and with good reason. Even a small hill can give many miles of range to your visibility, and nothing in those wide plains offers the least bit of an obstacle to a mounted force, and may infact improve it’s speed when reaching you, as there is no need to manoeuvre tight confines such as would be found in a town or city. Woodland, however, is the vehicle killer. Most woodland for sale comes with a narrow, winding, track to permit access to the owners, but is surrounded on most of their circumference by other woodland. This means that either an invading force will have to drive down your track at a snail’s pace (and this will, of course, be rigged with defensive measures and early warning systems, won’t it) or dismount and walk across several acres of other woodland in order to find you, losing both combat effectiveness, and tiring their soldiers out. Meanwhile, your group can be sitting camouflaged in the canopy, invisible until you decide to strike, if you do. Furthermore, the very “out-of-the-way”-ness of most forests mean that they won’t be on the regular patrol schedule of most forces, which will be focussed on control and suppression of higher population density areas.
Second, there is the issue of sustainability. This works pre-crunch as well, as purchase of woodland provides; wood (and dried leaves every autumn) for fuel; nuts and berries which can be harvested and preserved for food; and, most importantly, the ability to legally hunt and trap wild animals. Under the Hunting Act 2004[3] most forms of hunting are illegal, with the primary exemption of any hunting performed on land owned by the hunter, or with the consent of the owner. As you are the owner, you can now hunt all sorts of game, up to and including deer[4], as long as you abide by the covenant of ownership of woodland (basically ensuring your hunting activities do not cause disturbance or distress to your neighbours). It is also legal to pursue game which you have commenced hunting onto a neighbours land, providing you dispatch it as swiftly as possible. Many areas also come with streams or rivers running through them, which would make provision for fishing (as well as possibly an alternative route of escape should it be large enough).
Another useful advantage of owning woodland before the crunch is training. True, you could go out to a public wood and get your bushcraft on, but you’d also get some very funny looks, and also possibly reported if your actions are perceived to be breaking the law. On your own, private, land, you can practice all you skills to your heart’s content, whilst still maintaining maximum OPSEC. You may even be able to make a small amount of money by renting your woods out to those running bushcraft courses, or any training courses which require a wooded environment, as long as you abide by the above mentioned covenant.
You could also use the land you now own to set up various structures which maybe you don’t have space for in your home, but have always wanted. A small forge, for example, would be fun now, and vital post-collapse. A small cold-store room could easily be set up underground in a flatter area of the land, meaning that your food stores wouldn’t all be lost if your primary location were to be attacked. In fact, secreting several caches around the area will ensure that you have back-ups for most eventualities.
Finally there is the issue of residence. I have a friend whose greatest dream is to live in a house in a tree. Not the basic one room things made for children, but a full residence nestled in the boughs of a tree. Whilst this is probably untenable in a post-SHTF world, having an area of land of significant size wholly owned by you would be invaluable. Semi-permanent shelters can be constructed relatively easily, and if you’re in need of raw materials, hey, you’re in the woods, you’re surrounded by it! You can also live on your land semi-permanently throughout the normal year (and what an adventure for kids that would be!) to get yourself acclimatised to it.
Which brings me to another minor point (so the residence thing isn’t final, so what). Before the crunch, you know have a large area of land to; hold barbeques or picnics; camp with family and friends; hunt with your buddies; set up small agricultural or ruralized industries and any number of things which you could imagine.

Hopefully this article has served it’s purpose. I’m not saying you go out tomorrow and purchase half a dozen acres of forest. I’m just saying keep it in mind as an alternative or extra component to your prepping.

[4] Subject to The Deer Act 1991:

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