BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Federal officials say a mountain pine beetle outbreak that left Western states with vast stands of dead and dying trees has eased for the second consecutive year.
With fewer trees for the beetles to eat, the U.S. Forest Service said Monday that 3.8 million acres with beetle-killed trees were surveyed in 2011. That's down by more than half from 2009.
Agency officials say the good news is tempered by more trees dying at higher altitude as beetles take advantage of warm winters to gain a new foothold.
Montana recorded the most beetle kill in 2011, across almost one million acres. Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Oregon also had significant losses.
Beetle outbreaks can lead to more intense wildfires and hurt timber companies by making some trees unsuitable to harvest.