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Clearing dead trees could cost Helena $2M

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HELENA - Millions of acres of trees in Montana are infested with the mountain pine beetle, and that means higher costs for cities looking to remove the trees.

Officials say the cost of removing the roughly 400,000 acres of infested trees in the Helena National Forest could reach up to $2 million. Helena Natural Resource coordinator Brad Langsather said it's crucial to remove the dead trees because they present a wildfire danger. The work is funded through a combination of federal and state grants and city funds.

State forester Bob Harrington has said that the number of pine beetle-damaged trees - estimated at 2.7 million acres of forest last fall - could double by this fall.

Officials estimate it will take the next five years to complete the cutting.

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