Living Snow Fence
WYOMING LIVING SNOW FENCE PROGRAM
The Wyoming Living Snow Fence Program is a cooperative effort between the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), Wyoming State Forestry Division (WSFD), local Conservation Districts (CD) and private landowners to implement windbreak plantings for the purpose of snow catchment along State highways. Living Snow Fence plantings enhance State and County efforts to keep roads safe and open during periods of adverse winter weather while reducing highway maintenance expenditures. The Program provides funds to cover the costs of planting and maintaining LSF projects. WYDOT provides $100,000 annually to the Program.
Preliminary Project Proposals are due August 1, annually.
Wyoming Living Snow Fence Procedure
Senior Resource Forester
Your Local WSFD District Office
What are Living Snow Fences
What are Living Snow Fences?
Living Snow Fences are trees, shrubs, and/or native grasses planted at critical locations along public travel roads or around communities and farmsteads. These vegetative barriers trap and control blowing and drifting snow.
Properly designed, a living snow fence will cause snow to accumulate within and adjacent to the planting and not on the road. There are several advantages to using living instead of traditional wooden snow fence structures:
Last longer than traditional wooden structures (average. 50-75 years vs. 20-25 years).
Improve roadway aesthetics.
Provide and enhance wildlife habitat.
Relatively maintenance free once established.
Average installation and maintenance costs of living barriers have been approximately one seventh that of 12 ft. wooden structures over the life of each.
Reduced snow removal costs.
Sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Some disadvantages to consider
Living snow fences require more space than slat snow fences.
New plantings must be protected from grazing.
Time required to obtain adequate snow control is highly variable depending upon site conditions. On average, 5-10 years is required.
Site conditions such as shallow soils and pH (acidity or alkalinity) may prohibit plant establishment.
Railroad companies were among the first in the United States to use living barriers to control blowing snow. In 1905, the Great Northern Railway Company planted trees for snow drift control along rights-of-way in North Dakota. By 1909, this company reported that over 96,000 trees and shrubs had been planted and survival exceeded 80 percent.
During the winter of 1925-26, the Wyoming State Highway Department made an attempt to keep roads open state-wide. Due to difficulties encountered, a decision was made to install living snow fence plantings. Installation was initiated in the spring of 1927. Using WWI surplus equipment for watering, efforts were made to keep plantings alive during the early 1930s drought. This task proved too difficult and tree mortality was high. However, remnants of some plantings remain today and provide a surprising degree of snow control. Nearly 50 years were to pass before the living snow fence program was revived.
During the spring of 1983, the now Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) worked cooperatively with the Wyoming State Forestry Division to install three demonstration plantings in Laramie County for the purpose of snow control. The trees were provided supplemental moisture via drip irrigation systems.
In 1998, the Wyoming State Forestry Division and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts approached the leadership of WYDOT to initiate a statewide living snow fence program. This effort was successful and today all three agencies work under an MOU agreement to fund and implement living snow fence projects. To date, 57 projects have been installed and will protect 55,529 feet of public roadway upon establishment.
The states 34 Conservation Districts initiate site proposals in cooperation with local WYDOT maintenance personnel. These proposals are reviewed for technical aspects and site characteristics related to tree growth by the state living snow fence committee and contracts are signed identifying project installation and maintenance requirements.
Requirements for State Funded Program
Proposed sites must be located along state maintained highways (includes interstates)
Land ownership can be private, state or federal
Local Conservation District must be contacted for proposal development
All proposals must be pre-approved by WYDOT District office.
30 year easements and maintenance agreements are generally required.
Proposals are due by August 1 of each year.