Category: General Publications
Title: SWERI 5-Year Report to Congress, April 2016
Author: USDA Forest Service Southwestern Region
Abstract: The Southwest Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention Act (P.L. 108-317, 16 U.S.C. 6701(2004)) (the Act) established the Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes (SWERI), a unique program of applied research and service via three university-based restoration institutes. These are the Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI) at Northern Arizona University, The Colorado Forest Restoration Institute (CFRI) at Colorado State University, and the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute (NMFWRI) at New Mexico Highlands University. The primary purpose of the institutes is to develop, translate, and provide the best available science to affected entities on designing and implementing forest restoration and hazardous fuel reduction treatments. Affected entities are defined in the Act as land managers; stakeholders; concerned citizens; and the States of the interior West, including political subdivisions of the States. This SWERI Five-Year Evaluation Report was prepared pursuant to the Act (SEC. 7, P.L. 108-317, 16 U.S.C. 6701(2004). It is the second SWERI Five-Year Evaluation Report. Each institute responded satisfactorily to the recommendations found in the first five year evaluation report (Appendix B). This second report follows the same format used in the first report. It is based on self-evaluation reports from each institute, interviews with the affected entities identified in the Act, and a review of the final report by the Forest Service in consultation with the Department of Interior. The duties of the institutes are to: 1) develop, conduct research on, transfer, promote, and monitor restoration-based hazardous fuel reduction treatments to reduce the risk of severe wildfires and improve the health on dry forest and woodland ecosystems in the interior West; 2) synthesize and adapt scientific findings from conventional research to implement restoration-based hazardous fuel reduction treatments on a landscape scale using an adaptive ecosystem management framework; 3) translate for and transfer to affected entities any scientific and interdisciplinary knowledge about restoration-based hazardous fuel reduction treatments; 4) assist affected entities with the design of adaptive management approaches (including monitoring) for the implementation of restoration-based hazardous fuel reduction treatments; and 5) provide peer-reviewed annual reports. Over the last five years the SWERIs have made a considerable contribution to the scientific knowledge available to affected entities and the credibility of landscape scale forest restoration in the Southwest. The three institutes are seen as “go to” resources for scientific information on landscape scale restoration and analysis, risk assessment, and restoration and treatment monitoring. Pursuant to this 5 Year Evaluation the institutes have: 1) Ensured to the maximum extent possible that their research, communication tools, and information transfer activities have made significant progress toward achieving the purposes of the Act; and 2) implemented the duties described under Section 5(c) to the best of their ability within provided resources. More specifically, the SWERIs have: improved communication and cooperation among local, state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, and private industry in the planning process; provided resources and expertise that complement state forest restoration efforts; supported legislation on forest and watershed restoration; assisted the development of forest restoration industries in under-served communities through training and technical assistance; increased trust and credibility with stakeholder groups in landscape scale restoration discussions by providing and interpreting the best available science; provided expert scientific advice to affected entities; facilitated stakeholder group and discussions; and provided independent verification of the best available science for stakeholders in support of Forest Service restoration work. ERI is well known for its ecological research, publications and outreach. CFRI has taken on the dual role of providing science to stakeholders including government agencies, while also serving as facilitator for stakeholder groups, especially the Colorado Front Range Collaborative Landscape Restoration Program. NMFWRI is involved in projects that contribute to the health of the forest and woodland ecosystems through forest land mapping using a Geographical Information System (GIS), tours of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer restoration demonstration sites, and education and outreach. All three institutes are meeting the duties and achieving the purposes for which they were established. The Act authorizes an appropriation of $15 million annually. In the last five years annual allocations to the SWERIs were $150,000 to $2 million. During that time record breaking high intensity wildfires in the Southwest and widespread tree mortality due to the mountain pine beetle have galvanized state and local governments on the need for forest restoration. This has increased the demand for technical assistance from the SWERIs. The institutes responded by leveraging an additional $14.2 million from the states ($9.8 million) and federal land management agencies ($4.4 million). Of the $22.5 million the SWERIs received in the last five years 63% came from state governments and federal agencies for specific projects that were not covered by the annual SWERI allocation. The Act does not require any form of matching funds, so this additional funding demonstrates that the SWERIs are successful in obtaining additional support from affected entities. The stakeholders that were interviewed indicated that the institutes should broaden their scope to include other ecosystems and larger landscapes to further the science and resources available to states. The interviewees also said that funding for the SWERIs should be increased to expand their outreach and education activities and the continual building of partnerships with other agencies and research entities. In conclusion, each of the institutes warrants continued provision of federal assistance because they have been successful at working with various stakeholders in the states to establish the credibility of forest restoration and treatment to prevent wildfires; As a result of the work that has been completed with scarce resources, the institutes have generated a high degree of demand and relevance in their states.
Source: USDA Forest Service
Publisher: USDA Forest Service