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For the week of August 13 - 19, 2003

Features

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 feed stores.

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.

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.