Suspects arrested in casino robbery, carjacking
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have arrested two suspects in the robbery of a casino near Missoula International Airport and the carjacking of a family.
Authorities say the suspects fired shots at pursuing officers before finally freeing the uninjured hostages at three separate locations on Friday.
Missoula County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett said in a statement on Saturday that deputies took 36-year-old Thomas Dempsey and 38-year-old Nick West into custody.
The sheriff's office says both men have been booked into the Missoula County Detention Facility on multiple charges. There was no information on whether the two men had attorneys.
US wants to help endangered Yellowstone fish with $57M dam
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials say building a $57 million concrete dam and fish bypass channel along Montana's Yellowstone River offers the cheapest way to help an endangered species that dates to the time of dinosaurs.
The U.S Army Corps and Interior Department are proposing the irrigation dam on the lower Yellowstone near the North Dakota border.
That's where aging pallid sturgeon have been trapped for decades downstream of their spawning grounds.
Environmentalists say the dam could doom the fish and there's no proof the bypass channel would work.
They want the government to remove an existing man-made rock weir on the river. The weir diverts water for 58,000 acres of cropland.
A government study published Thursday said removing the weir and using pumps to get water would cost $138 million or more.
NATIONAL PARKS-VISITOR LIMITS
Park Service considers visitor caps, expects record crowds
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — As the National Park Service kicks off a centennial summer expected to draw record crowds, the agency is seriously considering caps on how many people pass through some of the country's most iconic landscapes and historical sites each day.
Park managers have begun looking at whether, when and how best to manage the impact of more people on the parks, their features and the visitors' experience.
Denali and Yellowstone plan to survey visitors about their experiences this summer, hoping the responses will provide insight on what limitations visitors might accept.
Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Utah have been taking public comment on their plans for tighter rules about how many people can be in the park at the same time.
GRAZING RESTRICTIONS-NEVADA GOVERNOR
Sandoval urges relaxed grazing restrictions as drought wanes
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging the Bureau of Land Management to reconsider livestock grazing restrictions in northeast Nevada, saying they may be unwarranted given a wet winter that has drought conditions on the mend.
The Republican governor who recently called for expedited roundups of wild horses in Nevada says the agency's current management scheme wrongly prioritizes mustangs ahead of ranchers.
Conservationists argue that wild horses and dwindling wildlife like the sage grouse enjoy legal protections not shared by domestic cattle and sheep.
BLM says federal law dictates many of those lands should be managed "principally, but not necessarily exclusively" for wild horses and burros.
Yellowstone urges tourists to carry bear spray, just in case
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A new Yellowstone National Park campaign urging tourists to carry bear spray features celebrities like Bozeman climber Conrad Anker, whose feats include three Everest ascents.
The Billings Gazette reports Aiken is shown on a poster carrying climbing ropes and bear spray. Park superintendent Dan Wenk says that no matter who you are or what you're doing in Yellowstone, you should carry bear spray and know how to use it. The posters also caution tourists to make noise and hike in groups.
While bear attacks are rare, Yellowstone spokeswoman Charissa Reid says the park is trying to increase the number of tourists carrying the tool.
Last August a lone hiker was killed by a grizzly sow with cubs. He was the ninth bear fatality in the park's 144 years.
Information from Billings Gazette: http://billingsgazette.com/
Gallatin College to offer photonics, optics program in fall
(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Gallatin College Montana State University is adding a photonics and optics program in hopes of helping staff nearby employers.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that classes will begin in the fall for the two-year program that will allow technicians to work in the industry with an associate's degree in photonics and laser technology.
The Gallatin Valley has about 30 photonics and optics companies, the most per capita in the country.
The new program has been approved by MSU and the Montana Board of Regents and approval from the Northwest Commission on Accreditation is currently being sought.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Arch Coal gives up stake in Washington coal-export project
LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — Arch Coal is giving up its stake in a joint venture to build a coal export port near Longview, Washington.
Lighthouse Resources Inc. said Thursday it is acquiring Arch's 38 percent interest in Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, giving it full ownership of the project. Arch would retain future shipping rights at the port.
St. Louis-based Arch, the nation's second biggest coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January. Senior Vice President Deck Slone said in a statement it was "the right time to transition away" from being a co-developer, partly to conserve capital.
Critics said it's a sign the company didn't have confidence in the project and couldn't bear the costs of keeping it going.
Lighthouse CEO Everett King said in a statement that the announcement underscores the company's commitment to the project and confidence in its future.
Hundreds of people have packed two hearings in Longview and Spokane this week to comment on a draft environmental review.
Police looking for men who robbed casino, took hostages
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Law enforcement officers are searching for two men who reportedly robbed a Missoula casino, took a family hostage and fired shots at pursuing officers before finally freeing the uninjured hostages at separate locations.
Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott said the men robbed Deano's Casino at about 3:30 a.m. Friday, carjacked a family from Lake Stevens, Washington, and sped through downtown Missoula.
A 12-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl and their grandmother were released in Missoula. The family's vehicle and the children's parents were located at about 5:30 a.m. near Evaro Hill, northwest of Missoula.
McDermott says the suspects were on the phone arranging for someone to pick them up before they fled the family's vehicle on foot.
The suspects are a black man and a white man, both about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and in their early 20s.
This story has been corrected to show the boy is 12 and the girl is 14.
Man convicted in tribal corruption case charged with escape
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A man who was convicted of defrauding a Montana Indian tribe now faces an escape charge after prosecutors say he fled from a minimum-security prison last fall. He was captured after crashing a stolen vehicle during a law enforcement pursuit on Interstate 90 near Bozeman.
A federal grand jury indicted Gary Conti in March on the alleged escape from the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado.
A judge kept the case sealed until Conti recovered from injuries suffered in the November crash. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris unsealed the case Thursday and scheduled a June 21 hearing.
Police say Conti escaped the prison just days after a court rejected an appeal of his conviction for participating in a scheme to defraud a Blackfeet Tribe youth program.
WOMEN'S PRISON ESCAPE
Inmate escapes Montana Women's Prison in Billings
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An inmate serving time for drug possession and for walking away from a prerelease center has escaped from the Montana Women's Prison in Billings.
Associate Warden Bob Paul says 26-year-old Christina Becker was assigned to the garden maintenance crew and apparently escaped over the perimeter fence at about 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Becker is 5 feet, 3 inches tall, weighs about 150 pounds and has blonde hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. She was last seen wearing grey shorts and a navy blue T-shirt. She was serving a five-year sentence for possession of dangerous drugs and a consecutive three-year sentence for walking away from the prerelease center in July 2015. She was located in her home state of New Mexico in November.
The Billings Gazette reports the last escape from the women's prison was in May 2008.
Independent committees provide muscle in legislative races
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Money has been flowing into Montana legislative races at a brisk pace, fueled by political committees seeking to influence the makeup of the Legislature that convenes in January.
Independent committees are spending thousands of dollars on ads and mailers in contested primaries, particularly those races between conservative and moderate Republicans.
Since early May, Montanans for Responsible Leadership has spent more than $33,000 to help moderate candidates, also called "responsible Republicans."
The Montana Contractors Association has spent nearly $6,000 of the $12,000 or so it plans to spend before the June 7 primary.
The Jobs for Montana PAC has already spent $15,000 to help four legislative candidates.
The PACs are making independent expenditures, not directly contributing to candidates, so they aren't bound by Montana's low campaign contribution limits.
Coal terminal hearing in Spokane draws hundreds
(Information from: KXLY-TV, http://www.kxly.com/)
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Hundreds of people packed into a convention center in Spokane to give their opinion on a proposed coal export terminal that would bring more than a dozen additional trains through the city every day.
KXLY-TV reports that the terminal proposed near Longview would allow the state to ship coal to Asia. It would also mean 16 additional coal trains going through Spokane daily on their way to or from Montana, Wyoming and other states.
The Washington Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County last month released a draft environmental review that found the proposal along the Columbia River could have some unavoidable, significant impacts on greenhouse gases emissions, vessel traffic and rail safety.
Regulators are taking comments on the $680 million Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview project through June 13.