Pine beetle outbreak in Western forests eases

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BILLINGS, Mont. — A pine beetle outbreak that has left many Western states with vast stands of dead and dying trees has eased for the second consecutive year, the U.S. Forest Service said Monday.

With fewer trees left for the beetles to eat, officials said a 2011 aerial survey recorded beetle-killed trees on 3.8 million acres of public and private land. That’s down by more than half from 2009, when about 9 million acres with dead trees were tallied.

But the good news is tempered by more trees dying at higher elevations as beetles take advantage of warm winters to gain a new foothold, said Robert Mangold, the Forest Service’s acting associate deputy chief for research and development. And with trees on roughly 42 million acres killed by various beetles since 2000, it could take decades for some forests to recover.

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