Winter highlights need for living snow fencesWORTHINGTON — If there was ever a winter that highlighted the need for living snow fences along state highways, county and township roads, this would be it.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — If there was ever a winter that highlighted the need for living snow fences along state highways, county and township roads, this would be it.
Stephanie McLain, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Worthington, said programs continue to provide incentives for landowners willing to plant trees along northern and western sides of roadways.
“You can really see where the snow fences are this year,” said McLain, showing photos taken recently in the county where trees have been strategically placed to help hold snow back and keep it from drifting on roads.
Ed Lenz, technical coordinator with the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, said the living snow fences have been a big help for county and township plows, which are working longer and harder this winter to keep the roads clear.
“The cost of paying for these (living snow fences) is cheaper in the long run than paying for the plows,” said Lenz. “(The trees) also improve visibility and road conditions for the drivers.”
Local conservation offices are interested in talking with any landowners who live along county and township roads, as well as state highways, about programs available to assist in planting trees.
“The Minnesota Department of Transportation offers incentive payments for landowners to put living snow fences by state highways,” said Lenz. “They have strategic locations, but they’ll talk to any landowner that’s interested.”
MnDOT payment rates range from $500 to $700 per acre, paid each year on a 15-year contract. Lenz said the program also comes with a possibility for renewal.
While landowners along state highways get a MnDOT payment, they are also eligible for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Living Snow Fence payments through the county Farm Service Agency. CRP payments are also offered in 15-year increments with the potential for reenrollment, and payments average $150 per acre, per year.
Landowners must apply through the FSA for the program, while the county SWCD office handles the technical site visits, draws up the tree plans and assists in arranging for the trees to be planted.
Living snow fences typically consist of one to three rows of trees and shrubs, planted approximately 100- to 150-feet off of the roadway, said Lenz.
There are only about a dozen living snow fences planted throughout Nobles County.
“Since you’re placing them off the highway, you have an odd portion of cropland in there,” said McLain. “That’s the reason why we run into such difficulty getting people to put living snow fences in.”
There are a couple of different options for the land located between the road ditch and the tree line, however. McLain said producers can put the strip into CRP and plant grasses, use it to diversify their operation by planting alfalfa, or request that planter widths be matched up prior to the tree planting so the land can continue to be used for row crop production.
“There’s a lot of different things you could do with those areas,” said McLain. “We try to be flexible with the landowners — we try to accommodate them and meet the eligibility requirements of the program.”
For more information on living snow fences, contact your county FSA or SWCD office. In Nobles County, the phone number is 376-9150.