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Great Bear Adventures wild animal park is tangling with state authorities over whether it will open this weekend with the proper roadside menagerie permits, according to the Hungry Horse News. The 13-year-old attraction faces new requirements for fencing its brown bears that would match similar businesses in the Flathead. The owners are disputing whether their business is under a court restraining order that could keep them from opening for the Memorial Day weekend.

The Horsemen also write about a deer that squeezed through a hole in a Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant pot line room and then couldn't get out. It took 15 CFAC employees and a couple of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens to mount a "deer drive" that got the mule deer buck safely out of the facility.

The Missoula Independent looks at the fate of local smoking bans this week. Changes from the 2003 Legislature not only damage the city's present anti-smoking policy, but cripple chances for future expansions of the campaign against second-hand smoke.

Cherry season appears well underway on Flathead Lake's East Shore, judging by the colorful blooms in lakeside orchards. The Bigfork Eagle. Cherry growers are holding out hope for a good harvest despite erratic spring weather.

More than 500 people came to hear the pros and cons of turning management of the National Bison Range over to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal government last week, according to the Lake County Leader. People testifying at the Ronan public hearing praised the tribes' ability to manage large operations and questioned how its hiring practices might affect the present employees. The decision deadline is June 30.

Whitefish businessman Kay Dean Denning was sentenced to 15 years for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in 1995, according to the Whitefish Pilot. During a pre-sentence hearing, Denning also admitted to molesting two other girls. He will serve at least nine months in prison, with 13 years of the sentence suspended subject to parole.

Libby businessman Terry Andreessen scored a rare invitation to join President Bush on the White House East Lawn for a rally supporting the Healthy Forest Restoration Act last week, the Libby Western News reports. He was one of just three representatives from western states asked to be present at the rally.

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