Cooperatove Conservation Project

Willow Living Snow Fence

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: New York

Project Summary: Willow living snow fences effectively trap drifting and blowing snow. They reduce vehicular accidents and consumption of winter resources, beautify the countryside and increase biodiversity.
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SUNY ESF and DOT personnel planting the willow living snow fence. Picture taken by Mary Brophy.
Resource Challenge

Upstate New York gets lots of snow in the winter.  Snow blowing across Route 30 has resulted in vehicular accidents.  To reduce the amount of blowing snow maintenance workers have installed an orange snow fence every fall.  It takes at least a day to install the fence.  The workers need to repair the fence, often in subzero temperatures.  It takes at least a day to take the fence down in the spring.  DOT also uses resources to plow and maintain the affected highway during winter storms.

Proper placement of the willow living snow fence required space outside the right-of-way (ROW).  The landowner signed an agreement, which allowed DOT to plant a single row of willow shrubs on her property.  NYSDOT, Region 9, turned to SUNY ESF for expertise on designing and installing living snow fences.  SUNY ESF provided the willow cuttings to the DOT at cost.

Examples of Key Partners

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Region 9

State University of New York (SUNY), College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF)

Private landowner in Schoharie County

Results and Accomplishments
Approximately 600 willow shrubs were planted 18 inches apart the appropriate distance from the highway.  Sweetspire and winterberry plants (72 or each) were interspersed with the willows to add color and texture.  By the winter of 2006-2007 the trees will begin to catch the blowing snow before it reaches the road.  The fence should be fully functional by the winter of 2007-2008.

A single row of shrub willows planted at the right density can create an effective living snowfence and replace labor intensive and aesthetically unappealing structural snow fences. Because the landowner wanted additional diversity, the DOT added ornamental plantings to the living snow fence.

Project Contact
Mary Brophy
Environmental Specialist II
44 Hawley Street
Binghamton, NY 13901
Tim Volk
Assistant Professor
345 Illick Hall 1 Forestry Drive SUNY ESF
Syracuse, NY 13210

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