'Last Best Place' slogan permanently protected

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Sen. Max Baucus says the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to permanently deny any trademark application for the well-known Montana slogan "Last Best Place."

The phrase was first popularized as the title of a 1988 anthology co-edited by writers William Kittredge and Annick Smith.

About a decade ago, Las Vegas businessman David Lipson sought exclusive rights to the term for his Resort at Paws Up in Montana's Blackfoot Valley, and for other businesses and products.

Current and former members of Montana's congressional delegation included language in appropriation bills each year to prohibit the Commerce Department from spending any money to approve a trademark. Each request was only effective for a year.

Baucus says Friday's announcement is a permanent ruling that will keep the phrase from being used commercially.


Interior sets new drilling rules on public land

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says it will for the first time require companies drilling for oil and natural gas on public and Indian lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

The proposed "fracking" rules also set standards for proper construction of wells and wastewater disposal.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the long-awaited rules will allow continued expansion of drilling while protecting public health and safety.

The new rules, which have been under consideration for a year and a half, were softened after industry groups balked at an initial proposal leaked earlier this year. The new proposal would allow companies to file disclosure reports after drilling operations are completed, rather than before they begin.

The rules won't affect drilling on private land.

The proposed rules are subject to public comment for 60 days, with a final order expected by the end of the year.


Man who helped hide body violated probation

(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon,

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Kalispell man who pleaded guilty to helping dispose of a murder victim's body in 2010 has been sentenced to 10 years with the state Department of Corrections after violating the conditions of his probation.

Cody Naldrett was originally sentenced to six months in jail and given a 10-year suspended sentence for helping dump the body of 49-year-old Wesley Collins in the woods after two other men beat him to death.

The Flathead Beacon reports District Judge Stewart Stadler revoked Naldrett's suspended sentence Thursday after Naldrett acknowledged leaving the state in January without permission.

Naldrett's attorney, Lane Bennett, says his client went to California and stopped checking in with his probation officer every two weeks.

Stadler recommended that Naldrett be placed in a pre-release center.


Man dies in crash, truck fire near Whitehall

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Highway Patrol says a man died in a fiery crash on Interstate 90 west of Whitehall.

The patrol says a westbound heavy-duty truck went off the interstate, crashed onto the access road below and caught fire at about 11:30 a.m. Friday.

The victim's name and home town haven't been released.


UN fact finder on indigenous rights wraps up visit

WASHINGTON (AP) — A United Nations fact finder surveying conditions of Native Americans and Alaska Natives says he will recommend in his report that some of their lands are returned.

James Anaya has been meeting with tribal leaders, the administration and Senate members over 12 days to assess U.S. compliance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He plans several suggestions in his report, likely due out this fall.

Anaya says land restoration would help bring about reconciliation. He named the Black Hills of South Dakota as an example. The hills are public land but are considered sacred land by Native Americans.

President Barack Obama endorsed the declaration in 2010, reversing a previous U.S. vote against it. It is intended to protect the rights of 370 million native peoples worldwide.


$98K in restitution ordered in eagle trafficking

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Crow Agency man who pleaded guilty to trafficking in eagles and hawks has been ordered to pay $98,500 in restitution.

The U.S. attorney's office says 23-year-old William Esley Hugs Jr. was sentenced Wednesday to 360 days in prison and given credit for already serving that time.

Hugs pleaded guilty in January to selling golden eagle wings and a carcass, a bald eagle carcass along with bald eagle wings and a tail and hawk tails to an informant.

Hugs, his father, his uncle and three other Crow tribal members have pleaded guilty to violating federal eagle and migratory bird protection laws.


Montana offers scholarship to basketball walk-on

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana men's basketball coach Wayne Tinkle says he's given a scholarship to walk-on Nick Emerson of Columbia Falls.

Emerson practiced with the team during the 2011-12 season and Tinkle says Emerson earned the scholarship during his redshirt season with the work he put in on the practice squad and in the classroom.

Emerson averaged 18 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists per game as a senior in leading Columbia Falls High to a 22-1 record and a state championship. He was a team captain, MVP and Montana's Gatorade player of the year.