How Bad Would The Wyoming Roads Be Without Snow Fences?
You've seen them and were curious.
You've lived in Wyoming your whole life and just assumed they were part of the normal, natural landscape, but you've never actually asked anyone what they were or why they were there.
Today we answer those questions.
For those of you that may think "oh, those are for the cattle and antelope to get shade during the summer" or "when the wind blows, the cows can stand behind them and the wind stays off them", you're actually both partly correct.
Those are both advantages, but first and foremost, they are snow fences that play a major role during the cold, snowy, windy conditions during the harsh Wyoming winters.
The object of the fence is to slow the blowing snow enough that it falls once it passes through, which causes the snow to pile a drift is formed and reduces the impact on the road.
Snow fences have been a staple along Wyoming roads for years, not only to protect the cattle and wildlife, but if planned out properly, can be used to help create stock ponds to keep livestock with water, assist road crews in winter snow removal and reducing the amount of blowing snow.
Not only is a well placed snow fence beneficial for safety, it can be a cost saving measure on the state's snow removal equipment. From maintenance, wear and tear and even the amount of manhours needed to work on the roads.
WYDOT uses over 400 miles of snow fence all over the state to assist during the extreme winter conditions and the research proves they're beneficial.
Wyoming has a division of WYDOT called the Winter Research Services (WRS), that dedicates their time to finding the locations across the state that need new snow fences or added fences.
The WRS works all year doing research and collecting data to learn where the fence is working and where work needs to be done. It's really a science to determine the best locations to place the fence, it takes lots of data collecting and the type of fence that will work best in heavy drifting locations.
There are options when it comes to snow fencing. Many times you'll see the large wooden structures, with horizontal slats, that seem to begin and end in the middle of nowhere.
Other times you'll see the smaller, vertical slats, that you'll see in town or closer to roadways.
Not only will you see the man made fences, but you'll see living snow fences. A line of trees or shrubs in strategic, but seem to be random, locations along roadways assist in reducing the blowing and drifting of snow.
Over time these fences need to be maintained, and one problem WYDOT is seeing, the landowners that agreed to build and maintain them decided not to continue, or they're gone and the new landowners have refused.
With the population of Wyoming growing, WYDOT is seeing an increase in requests to maintain the roads, at the same time keeping the costs down. More snow fences may be the answer to those demands, but cooperation is needed for the system to work and work the way it's intended.
This video gives brief explanation of the importance of snow fences in Wyoming.