Economics of Living Snow Fences in the Intermountain West
Past research has found that living snow fences are the most cost-effective option for controlling blowing snow along transportation corridors. Despite this, living snow fences are an underutilized forestry practice throughout much of the Intermountain West, even though these fences can be successfully maintained in the region’s harsh climate. Decision-makers may be encouraged to establish more living snow fences in the region when economic efficiency gains can be demonstrated. Efficiency gains from living snow fences, evaluated using the annualized cost approach, demonstrate that the benefits to society outweigh the costs. An example is presented using an average-sized, 1,040-ft-long, 3 row snow fence, and a discount rate of 8%. To offset snow fence costs over a 50 yr expected life, the fence need only reduce traffic accidents by as little as one every 23 yr, or reduce snow plowing by about 6 hr/yr. Other likely but less quantifiable benefits make the benefits of living snow fences even more economical to society. Private expenditures may need to be subsidized if these social benefits are to be provided at optimal levels, however. West. J. Appl. For. 14(3):132-136.