The NFI provides an important basis for decision making in Swiss forestry and environmental policy.
31% of Switzerland is covered by forest. This forest is an important habitat for animals and plants. It provides wood, protection from natural hazards and room for recreation. For the sustainable use and protection of the forests it is necessary to provide objective information to politicians, scientists, ecologists, foresters and the timber industry, as well as to national and international organisations.
The NFI is intended to record the current state and the changes of the Swiss forest in all its functions. It should be possible to give statistically reliable results for Switzerland, larger cantons and regions. Consequently the Federal Council decided to carry out the first national forest inventory (NFI) in 1981. Today there is a legal foundation for the NFI in articles 33 and 34 of the 921.0 Swiss Federal Act on Forest and, in article 37a, the 921.01 Forest Ordinance.
In the 510.620 Geoinformation Ordinance, the foundations (ID 163) and findings (ID 164) are set forth. The forest- and geoinformation ordinances both assign the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) as the responsible federal authorities.
Along with other surveys, the NFI constitutes a national forest information system. It is part of the program «Swiss Forest Monitoring» Program along with the Long-Term Forest Ecosystems Research LWF, the Sanasilva Inventory SSI, and the Swiss Forest Protection.