Battling the beetles

About 2,000 dead and dying trees on 30 acres in the Park Lake area southwest of Helena will probably be logged as part of the Helena National Forest’s battle with mountain pine beetles.

Closer to home, federal lands in the South Hills of Helena also are on the priority list for removing both bug-infested and non-infested trees.

It’s the start of what’s expected to be an ongoing tree removal project for at least the next five years, as the Helena National Forest concedes its losing the battle with the beetles. Forest officials recently shifted gears, and now want to focus on removing trees that pose a hazard to people camping, hiking and playing in the woods; logging dead and live trees that can be used for lumber, or are on forest lands near homes; and thinning dense stands where the beetles seem to thrive.