Deputy USDA Undersecretary Arthur ''Butch" Blazer said in Cheyenne on Wednesday that the mountain pine beetle infestation which has plagued Wyoming and several other western states in recent years appears to be easing. Blazer says that's partially because the beetles have already killed many of the trees vulnerable to their attacks and partially because such infestations have historically tended to follow a cycle featuring increasing infestation, a peak period, and then several years of declining infestations. He says the infestation appears to have peaked in 2009 and has apparently been declining over the last couple of years.

Blazer did caution, however, that it's unclear how global warming, which is thought to be a major factor in the infestation, will affect the normal cycle over the next few years. Blazer also said there is little doubt that  trees killed by the beetle provided additional fuel for forest fires this past summer, and combined with drought conditions helped make the wildfire season more severe than usual in 2012.