Custer County faces down-and-out times
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Mackay, located in southern Custer County,
used to have four car dealerships, four grocery stores, five service stations,
two drug stores, two farm machinery dealers, nine bars and a number of small
The town is a shadow of its former self.
"Whatís Mackay have now?" asked Lin Hintze,
a 60-year resident of the town and a Custer County Commissioner. "The (federal
governmentís) Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory and the
Forest Service," he answered.
"We have one grocery store, and heís
having a hell of a time. There are no car dealerships, two bars, no drug store,
no feed store and no farm machinery dealer.
"Only one guy does seed potatoes, and the
cattle industry is cut in half. Agriculture went down about 90 percent in Custer
County since about the middle í70s."
Hintze is skeptical about what wilderness
designation in the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains could do for his community.
Outside visitors donít bring much money, and second homeowners, which he
believes wilderness would attract, donít help much.
"Itís the things the ranches did that
created the community," he said. "The folks who support the wilderness area do
not spend any money in the community, and Iíll argue that fact."
Hintze laments the large amount of public
land within his countyís borders, but said the recent installation of a
broadband fiber optic cable and Rep. Mike Simpsonís proposed land trade could
help with the economic straits.
"Even though Custer County is the size of
Connecticut, 96 percent of it is public land. That leaves us with 4 percent to
haul the garbage and maintain public roads. As our people move off the ranches,
whoís going to do that?" he asked.