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Trio facing charges for smuggling drugs through Yaak

The remote Yaak Valley in NW Montana- Dennis Bragg photo (MISSOULA)- Two men accused of attempting to smuggle more than 1-million dollars in ecstasy and cocaine through a remote valley in Northwest Montana are free pending their trial in federal court later this year. Meanwhile, a third man remains in custody. 

Matthew Desmond Browne and Preston Frederick Lahmer are part of a trio caught last month attempting to get the drugs across the Canadian border in the northernmost reaches of the Yaak Valley…

Federal prosecutors say Browne was caught speeding in Libby on June 8th. Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies say Browne began acting nervous and claimed to be a British Columbia resident on vacation, although he couldn't explain any stops on his trip. 

When the Border Patrol was called to search Browne's car with a K-9, prosecutors say they found dozens of vacuum-sealed bags of cocaine in a false truck bed, with an estimated street value of $1.3 million dollars. 

Browne told officers he was involved in a scheme to smuggle the drugs from California in backpacks across the border. The next morning, they went to Browne's rendezvous point on the upper Yaak Valley Road, where they found 3-backpacks with 45-pounds of ecstasy powder. 

Prosecutors say Lahmer and Kristopher Glenn Pfeifer and Preston Frederick Lahmer attempted to flee but were taken into custody. They told investigators they were Canadians who had been paid $10,000 to sneak the drugs across the border. 


Uber service finally ready to roll in Montana

(BOZEMAN)- After months of delays it looks like the popular Uber service is finally ready to start sharing rides in Montana. 

The company, which has revolutionized transportation in many of the U.S. urban areas, has been slower to roll out in rural states like Montana. The system allows riders to request rides through a smart phone app, and for everyday drivers to make extra money by signing up to share rides through the network. 

The Montana Public Service Commission had approved Uber operations in Montana last winter. But for months the start date was in question.

Now, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle is reporting Uber is ready to roll out in several Montana cities, including Bozeman, in August. 

A company spokesman told the Chronicle the delay was caused by the state reviewing how Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors or employees. 


MT gas prices still a "bargain"

Although Montana gas prices continue to fluctuate this summer, with occasional week-to-week increases, they still remain a bargain compared to last year, and an outright "steal" from just a few years ago.

The latest weekly survey by website shows the average price of regular gas in Montana at $2.33 a gallon on Sunday. That's down .03 cents in the past week and remains higher than the national average of $2.26 a gallon. 

But you won't hear a lot of drivers complaining. 

That's because the price is still nearly 46-cents a gallon less than Montana drivers were paying last summer at this same time. And it's DOLLARS less that what we were paying a few years ago when gas topped the $4-a-gallon threshold. 


Going-to-Sun crash not caused by wildlife

(WEST GLACIER)- Glacier National Park rangers are checking into what caused a crash that closed the popular Going-to-the-Sun Road for two hours earlier this week. But they're saying the head-on wasn't caused by wildlife. 

The crash Monday afternoon happened on the lower reaches of the road, only about 4-miles from Apgar, and wasn't on the narrow, winding "alpine" section of the popular road. 

A total of nine people were involved in the crash, with seven injured. One person was flown to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. 

Glacier spokesman Tim Raines tells the Flathead Beacon the crash wasn't caused by wildlife, which are frequently seen along the park's main route. He says the road has been seeing very heavy traffic this summer. 


Cooler, calmer conditions helping on Observation Fire

USFS photo shows a retardant line near the fire earlier this week(HAMILTON)- Cooler, calmer weather and some rain showers are exactly what firefighters need in the Bitterroot, as they work to expand fire lines around the Observation Fire. 

The fire, burning in the Lost Horse drainage southwest of Hamilton, is the largest blaze in Montana so far during the 2016 fire season, having burned over 1,400-acres. 

Fire managers say they've been able to contain 30% of the fire now behind fire lines, with efforts helped by calmer winds over the past 24-hours. High winds have been problematic on the fire since it started in late June. 

Efforts now are to expand the fire line through steep terrain on the west side of the fire. A Stage 1 evacuation alert remains in place, asking residents of the area to be prepared to evacuation if conditions change.