Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Living Snow Fences

Control blowing and drifting snow

image of living snow fence

Farmer and landowner information

What is a living snow fence?

Living snow fences are trees, shrubs and native grasses located along roads or around communities and farmsteads. These living barriers trap snow as it blows across fields, piling it up before it reaches a road, waterway, farmstead or community. It also includes leaving a few rows of corn along the road side, hay bales and other ways to use vegetation and temporary fencing to control blowing snow.

How does it work?

Drift-free roads are achievable through proper road design and snow fences. A suitably designed roadway will promote snow deposition in ditches rather than on the roadway, and blowing snow that does reach the road will move across without drifting. Snow fences can also help maintain clear roadways by capturing blowing snow upwind of a problem area and storing that snow over the winter season.

What are the benefits?

  • Prevent big snow drifts that lead to stranded motorists
  • Improve driver visibility and reduce vehicle accidents
  • Reduce use of public money by reducing plow time
  • Lessen our impact on the environment with less salt use, fewer truck trips and less fuel consumption
  • Reduce shipping delays for goods and services
  • Increase crop yields by 10 percent or more
  • Control soil erosion and reduce spring flooding
  • Serve as visual clues to help drivers find their way

How do I enroll in MnDOT's living snow fence program? And get paid?

First, see if your site is eligible for MnDOT’s living snow fence program by contacting your local MnDOT district
snow fence coordinator
. The coordinator will verify the absence or presence of the blowing snow problem along the section of highway adjacent to your property that you would like to enroll in the program.

Next, if your site is eligible and you want to enroll in the program, you will need to become a state vendor. This multi-step process will allow you to be paid through the Statewide Integrated Financial Tools system. The secure system will collect information about how to reimburse you. You can also sign up for direct deposit through the system. To get paid by MnDOT for a living snow fence on your site, complete the online State Vendor Registration Form. See how to become a state vendor (PDF).

For standing corn rows or stacked bales MnDOT enters into a short term (1 winter season) agreement with
you and payment is made at the end of the winter season. Handpicking of the corn ears are permitted as
MnDOT is paying for the corn stalks needed to catch the blowing snow. If the farm operator chooses to
harvest the corn in the spring the farmer keeps the corn to sell and use as they so choose.

For living snow fences consisting of woody vegetation and native grasses/wildflowers, the MnDOT district
snow fence coordinator will work with you and your local Soil Water Conservation District, USDA Farm
Service Agency, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The USDA Natural Resources
Conservation Service certifies that the design and plant installation meets their specifications to achieve
optimal plant growth and health. Since committing to plant and maintain woody vegetation is a long term
commitment MnDOT will enter into a 10 to 15 year agreement with you to annually compensate you for
storing snow on your property and maintaining the planting. This living snow fence agreement has potential
to be renewed after year 15 pending legislative funding and MnDOT identifying the purpose and need for
continued blowing snow control.

Help us keep snow and blowing snow off your roads

Farmer leadership and community service help keep roads open. Learn how MnDOT pays farm operators (PDF) to leave standing corn rows, hay bales or silage bags to protect selected state highways through winter with our standing corn row program (PDF).