Living Snow Fence
Here in windy Wyoming, snow fences are essential for controlling blowing and drifting snow on roadways.
The Laramie County Conservation District initiated the Living Snow Fence Program in 1989 as a means of addressing blowing and drifting snow problems on city, county and state travel routes while at the same time addressing other natural resource needs within the county. Other benefits include food and shelter for wildlife, which adds diversity to the landscape.
A living snow fence is simply a series of tree and shrub rows arranged in such a manner as to eliminate the need for traditional, significantly more costly snow entrapment structures.
Since 1989 the number of living snow fences in Laramie County has steadily increased. A total of 258 living snow fences are now in place.
The living snow fence program receives funding from the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Laramie County Public Works Department, and corporate sponsors such as Exxon Company USA and the Union Pacific Railroad.
Methods of Installing a Living Snow Fence
- Site identification is a cooperative effort between the Conservation District, representatives of local and state transportation departments and the local public.
- Contractual agreements are signed between parties involved in the project.
- Initial site preparation is completed in the fall.
- Sites subject to grazing are fenced to protect the seedlings. To accomplish this, the District staff and seasonal employees utilize the District’s fencing equipment.
- Temporary snow fence is installed to aid in soil moisture storage for seedlings.
- Seedling trees and shrubs are planted from April to early June.
- Fabric mulch is placed over each tree row following planting to reduce moisture-competing weeds and grasses. Fabric mulch also holds moisture in the soil, thereby reducing the need for supplemental watering.
A three-year maintenance program has been established for each site. During this period, Conservation District personnel provide regular inspection and control for insects, disease and rodent problems, and replant trees that do not survive.
The District has completed a comprehensive list of its 258 living snow fence sites by year including the site number, year established, landowner, legal description, and if signage has been installed. This information is now located on the District’s Geographic Information System database. Also on GIS is a maintenance record-keeping system of each site to document every maintenance function performed.
The following graph illustrates the economic advantage a living snow fence has over traditional Wyoming snow fence:
|3-ROW LIVING SNOW FENCE||WYOMING SNOW FENCE|
|Useful life: 50 years||Useful life: 20 years|
|Installation costs: $6.98 per foot of roadway protected||Installation costs: $19.35 per foot of roadway protected|
|Maintenance costs: (3-year maintenance) $8.02 per foot of roadway protected||Maintenance costs: $.25 per foot/year of roadway protected|
|Costs per mile/per year of roadway protected: $1,029.60||Costs per mile/per year of roadway: protected: $6,428.40|
- Aside from the economic benefits previously discussed, other benefits derived from living snow fences include:
- Conserving energy expended on snow removal
- Improving the safety of winter travel in Laramie County
- Creating wildlife habitat through the establishment of woody vegetation
- Beautifying the landscape of Laramie County