Snow fences are natural or artificial barriers used to manage snow drift. Set back from the roadway, they protect roads from blowing and drifting snow, minimizing car crashes, plowing, chemical applications, and infrastructure costs. There are three types of snow fences: living fences, or natural barriers of trees and shrubs; standing corn rows; and structural snow fences. While snow fences have been shown to be cost-effective, some landowners are hesitant to participate. Researchers Shambhu Saran Baral, Ryan Fries, and Yan Qi wanted to identify current state transportation agency practices of using snow fences, as well as to identify what motivates landowners to adopt them. 

In their paper, “Transportation Agency and Landowner Perspectives on Snow Fence Programs” in the Journal of Cold Regions Engineering, the authors began with a literature review, followed by two surveys: one to agency stakeholders and the other to landowners. Agency participants responded to questions on current practices and usage of snow fences, as well as benefits and costs. The survey of landowners asked about their background, how they use their land, their preferred type of snow fence, and compensation. Survey results were reviewed with a focus on identifying best practices and motivating landowner participation. Learn more about this research to improve road safety in snow-prone regions at The abstract is below.


Two surveys helped gather information on the state transportation agencies’ snow fence programs and private landowners’ perspectives on snow fences. The first survey collected responses from state transportation agencies in the Midwest of the United States and the landowner survey was distributed to Illinois landowners via the online publication Farm Week. The agency survey showed that the vast majority of respondents planned to expand or maintain their snow fence programs and relied on the feedback and experience of road maintenance personnel to identify snow drifting problem segments. Key concerns identified by the landowner survey include the implementation and maintenance of snow fences by state agencies, proper and timely compensation, making long-term commitments with the state, and soil moisture in the snow storage area. It also showed that the number of acres and unit price of crops were the most important factors to include in a payment structure. Landowners’ participation in snow fence programs could be encouraged by providing more flexible contracts, offering adjustable payment structures, adding incentives to engage landowners in installation and maintenance, and providing an awareness program.

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