Deforestation is defined as the permanent or temporary change of use of forest land. Deforestation is fundamentally prohibited in Switzerland in the interest of forest conservation; however, exceptional permits may be granted if there are important reasons that outweigh this interest. Examples include road and railway construction, landfills and mining projects. When a deforestation permit is granted, the deforested area must in principle be compensated with replacement afforestation.
In 2016, the Confederation and cantons authorised a total of 367 deforestation projects comprising an area of 194 ha of forest. This represented an increase of 25 ha compared to the previous year and 35 ha above the 10-year mean. This deviation is in keeping with the annual fluctuations. Thus, the legislative requirement of conserving the forest is fulfilled.
Of the total deforested area in 2016, 15% was authorised to facilitate transport infrastructure, 11% for raw materials extraction, 5% for disposal facilities, 4% for sports facilities, 5% for buildings, 32% for power lines and energy requirements, 23% for watercourse correction projects and 5% for miscellaneous purposes. Compared to the average for the last 10 years, the area deforested to make way for power lines and energy infrastructure has increased, whereas it has decreased for raw materials extraction and disposal facilities.
The goal is to conserve the forest in its area and spatial distribution and prevent it from shrinking within its area. Toward that end, further development of the forest area is harmonised with landscape diversity (including connectivity) and the desired spatial development (including agricultural priority areas). The average value for deforestations in the 2007-2016 period (160 ha/J) serves as the basis for assessing the consistent trend.
The indicator cannot be compared internationally. Each state has its own specific administrative procedures when it comes to deforestation processes.
The deforestation permits issued by the cantons (for cantonal processes) and federal authorities (for federal processes) are recorded and evaluated in the "FOPOL" database.