The Southwest Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention Act ("the Act"), signed into law on October 5, 2004, authorized the creation of three research institutes in the Interior West. The institutes are charged with promoting the use of adaptive ecosystem management to reduce the risk of wildifes and restore the health of forest and woodland ecosystems. The Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University, in existence since 1999, has now been joined by the Forest and Watershed Institute at New Mexico Highlands University and the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University. Collectively, these three Institutes are called the Southwest Forest Restoration Institute (SWERI).

On June 13, 2005, at the Western Governor's Association (WGA) annual meeting, the governors of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico signed a charter with the universities to formalize the role of the SWERI and provide a framework for collaboration. The framework establishes the SWERI Coordinating Commitee which includes: representatives of the three governors, the three state foresters, directors of each of the Institutes, and a representative of the WGA.

  • In Colorado, the CFRI at Colorado State University assists then Uncompahgre Plateau Mesas Forest Restoration Project (“UP Mesas”) on the Uncompahgre National Forest.
  • In Arizona, the ERI at Northern Arizona University has operated for 25 years to advance landscape-scale restoration. Currently, the ERI provides support to the Four Forest Restoration Initiative on the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab, and Tonto national forests. The ERI also supported initial treatment design on the Southwest Jemez Mountains CFLRP Project.
  • In New Mexico, the NMFWRI at New Mexico Highlands University provides technical assistance to the New Mexico Collaborative Forest Restoration Program and the Southwest Jemez Mountains CFLRP project.