The Mississippi State University Extension Service recently gained national recognition for a program designed to protect the state’s timberlands from an insect pest.

The Mississippi Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program received the 2012 Family Forests Education Award at the Society of American Foresters’ national convention, held in Spokane, Wash. The honor is given annually by the National Woodland Owners Association and the National Association of University Forest Resources Programs. It honors the educational institution that has delivered the most effective educational program benefiting non-industrial, private forest landowners.

The Mississippi Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program is part of a regional effort funded by the U.S. Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission to reduce the threat and impacts of Southern pine beetle outbreaks on private forest lands.

Andy Londo, a research and Extension professor in MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center and Extension forestry coordinator, nominated the program for the award because no other university in the country does anything like it.

“The nomination covered activities from 2007 to 2012, which included 260 educational programs conducted for 12,457 participants and 359 site visits,” Londo said. “These prevention activities include Extension outreach programs in all areas dealing with pine beetle prevention: pine beetle biology, identification and management, prescribed burning, pine plantation thinning andother related topics.”

The group also coordinated three cost-share programs -- one each for foresters, loggers and landowners -- to encourage thinning.

“Thinning is the single best prevention strategy. The cost-share programs resulted in 102,700 acres thinned and about $1.5 million in cost-share payments to landowners, foresters and loggers.”

Another factor that makes the program unique is its multiple collaborative partners.

“What makes the award special is that it recognizes the team work required to conduct the work and the numerous people who contributed to the program’s success,” Londo said.

“Mississippi is the only state in which the state forestry agency is working with the state’s Extension forestry program to deliver this type of educational outreach. It’s essentially a peer award that recognizes the high qualityof work being conducted at MSU.”

Andy Ezell, MSU forestry department head, said the nomination materials were judged by a panel of experts from universities across the country, who noted the amount of work, partnering and successes involved in the program.

“We are extremely pleased to see that this program has received the national attention that it deserves,” Ezell said. “The efforts of our Extension forestry faculty and staff are simply outstanding.”