California Wetlands Information System

California Waterfowl Habitat Program

California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and California Waterfowl Association (CWA)


Created by the California Waterfowl Habitat Preservation Act of 1987, this program supports landowners' efforts to preserve and enhance their wetland waterfowl habitat. Participating landowners receive $20 an acre per year for entering into a wetland conservation agreement with the Department of Fish and Game for an initial period of ten years to protect and manage their wetland property for the benefit of waterfowl.

How the program works

Each agreement includes a waterfowl habitat management plan developed cooperatively by the CDFG, the participating landowner, and, in most cases, a field biologist from the California Waterfowl Association. The plan contains guidelines for managing the property to provide high-quality seasonal wetland habitat. Management activities may vary somewhat from year to year depending on habitat conditions. Biologists from the Department of Fish and Game typically meet with landowners in the spring to decide on the management strategy for that spring and summer.

The program has the following general requirements: Wetlands must be flooded in the fall and shallow water coverage maintained until spring. Gradual drainage is required during specified periods in the spring, usually between March and May, to encourage germination of important moist soil waterfowl food plants such as smartweed, swamp timothy, and watergrass. At least one "flash" irrigation is usually required during late spring or summer to enhance seed production. Discing is also required periodically to maintain the moist-soil conditions optimum for producing desired waterfowl food plants. In addition to managing for seasonal wetlands, owners of large properties are usually required to create and maintain upland nesting habitat and small brood ponds for the benefit of locally breeding waterfowl.

The CDFG verifies compliance with the agreement at the end of each summer and makes payments accordingly. The landowner must cover any further management costs, including those for obtaining sufficient water. Agreements are automatically renewed each year, unless the landowner notifies the CDFG of a desire to cancel. After such notification, the agreement remains in effect until the current ten year period expires. Land enrolled in this program may be leased for waterfowl hunting or other compatible uses as specified in the management plan. The California Waterfow l Habitat Program imposes no limitations on simultaneous inclusion of enrolled land in other cost share or easement programs, with the exception of the state's Permanent Wetland Easement Program.

While most practices sponsored under this program do not require permits, occasionally the landowner and the Department of Fish and Game will decide on a management plan that does include regulated activities. In those instances, Department staff will provide guidance, but complying with those regulations is ultimately the responsibility of the landowner.


The program is available statewide, and enrollments are accepted year-round. For more information, contact the Department of Fish and Game at (916) 653-5284; or the California Waterfowl Association at (916) 648-1406.

This page is an exerpt from Options for Wetland Conservation: A Guide for California Landowners, a publication of the California State Coastal Commission. To obtain a copy of the guide or for more information about the Coastal Conservancy contact:

California State Coastal Conservancy
1330 Broadway, Suite 1100
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 286-1015
FAX: (510) 286-0470



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