Montana at 6 p.m.

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HELENA — National Park Service officials told Yellowstone's departing superintendent that he wasn't being forced out over a disagreement with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but Dan Wenk said Thursday he still believes he is being punished by being forced to move up his retirement. Wenk, who will step down as Yellowstone's top administrator on Sept. 29 after a 43-year park service career, spoke to reporters in a farewell telephone news conference that lasted nearly two hours as he fielded questions on controlling the park's bison population, managing grizzly bears and the rise in park visitors. By Matt Volz. SENT: 770 words, photos.



BILLINGS — Wildlife officials endorsed a plan Thursday to keep northwestern Montana's grizzly population at roughly 1,000 bears as the state seeks to bolster its case that lifting federal protections will not lead to the bruins' demise. The proposal adopted on a preliminary vote by Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners sets a target of at least 800 grizzlies across a 16,000-square mile (42,000-square kilometer) expanse just south of the U.S.-Canada border. By Matthew Brown. SENT: 570 words, photos.


GREAT FALLS — George Brown of Tiburon, California, was looking forward to seeing the fantastic scenery and riding a horse after signing up for an eight-day trip through Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness with his brother-in-law, Al Ball. The Bob almost killed Brown. "I was in bad shape yesterday," Brown said Wednesday morning from his bed at Benefis Health System in Great Falls where he was preparing to undergo surgery on his broken leg. "They found me none too soon." By Karl Puckett, Great Falls Tribune. An AP Member Exchange. SENT: 1,380 words, photo.


— WILDLIFE AGENCY — The head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stepping down after a 16-month tenure in which he proposed broad changes to rules governing protections for thousands of plant and animal species.

— GRIZZLY CUB EUTHANIZED — Wildlife officials say a grizzly bear cub was euthanized after its mother and siblings were killed in a vehicle collision on U.S. Highway 93 south of Ronan.

— TONGUE RIVER DROWNING-SEARCH — Officials are searching a southeastern Montana river for a reported drowning victim.

— FATAL HOUSE FIRE — A woman died in a fire at a trailer house in the northwestern Montana town of Hungry Horse.

— SECURITIES FRAUD-CONVICTION — A northwestern Montana man has been convicted of stealing nearly $2 million from investors.

— STUDENT LOAN DEBT — Recent data shows students from Montana's largest universities are graduating with a little less debt.


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MARKETPLACE: Calling your attention to the Marketplace in AP Exchange, where you can find member-contributed content from Montana and other states. The Marketplace is accessible on the left navigational pane of the AP Exchange home page, near the bottom. For both national and state, you can click "All" or search for content by topics such as education, politics and business.