If a single family could illustrate Montana's love-hate relationship with mining, it would be the Garlands, who run Garland's General Store, along Lincoln's main strip.
Cecil and Barbara Garland established the store
in the 1950s, but their daughter Teresa, 44, is in charge now. She
sells fly-fishing paraphernalia to tourists, and boots and gloves
to the locals. And she is married to gold miner KD Feeback, whose
office is next door. She thinks the mine will buttress the Lincoln
economy the way timber supports a mine shaft. Teresa Garland
explains that the McDonald Mine estimates it will spend $45 million
annually on goods and services, and pay $1.5 million in property
taxes, some of which will help Lincoln schools.
Then there is the mining company's good will.
Although Canyon Resources is at least a year away from asking the
state for its permits, its charity permeates the town. The front
hallway of the gold-mine office is plastered with thank-you cards
from Boy Scout troops, kindergarten classes, the wrestling team,
the Babe Ruth Association. On any given day, the local paper will
show a smiling student who was awarded a scholarship from the gold
mine to attend volleyball camp. The company bought computers for
the elementary school, where the majority of kids are poor enough
to qualify for the school lunch program. Most important, all the
emergency vehicles in this remote town were donated by the mine, as
was a Jaws of Life to pry people out of crashed cars.
"They get in trouble for doing good work, like
they're trying to buy us off. Nah, they've got to do it if they're
gonna hang out. That's what Main Street Lincoln does," says Teresa
Garland. "We contribute to every kid and club willing to jump rope
for five cents a minute for uniforms. They just have more money
than I do."
Teresa's sister Becky, 41,
disagrees. Becky has spent most of her life defending the river,
earning the nickname "Godmother of the Blackfoot."
She started almost 30 years ago, when her
father, Cecil Garland, was leading an unprecedented fight against
Anaconda Co., which wanted to mine copper on state land along the
Blackfoot River. Townspeople rallied behind the mine; Cecil and
Becky Garland spoke out against it. In 1969, much of the town of
Lincoln boycotted Garland's General Store, while busloads of
students from the University of Montana in Missoula drove 160 miles
round-trip to Lincoln weekly to bring it customers.
In a testament to Montana's burgeoning
environmental consciousness, the state land board, which only had
four members at the time, tied 2-2 on whether to allow the mine,
and for the first time in its history, Anaconda was denied a
permit. (To avoid future gridlock, the state land board added a
Now another company wants to mine along
the Blackfoot, this time gold instead of copper, and Becky thinks
the benefits to the town are not worth the risks to the river. She
says relying on handouts or business from the gold mine undermines
the town, the way a mine that tunnels underground eventually
weakens a mountain.
She describes what happened
when Phelps Dodge started bringing drillers to Lincoln five years
ago. Becky, who ran Garland's at the time, tried to accommodate.
She ordered clothing and boots from the company store catalogue
they provided her with. Like all other merchandise, she ordered it
two seasons in advance.
"They forget to tell you
that next spring the drillers won't be coming out. You have all
this Carhartt clothing or 30 pairs of steel-toed boots. This kind
of thing is going to really kill small businesses."
Becky predicts that if the mine is built, a
chain store like Wal-Mart will set up shop, displacing the two
locally owned grocery stores, and possibly Garland's as well. A
franchise can quickly build up inventory, and pull out at quick
notice, when the bust comes.
"For my whole life
in Lincoln, we have been able to make do with what we have. When
the community decided we needed something, the community got
together and figured out how to get it," she says. "We will lose
the community fiber."