Cover photo for Bird Returns Wetlands

Bird Returns Wetlands

The Nature Conservancy,
Ducks Unlimited,
California Waterfowl Foundation

Closed February 6, 2024

Private wetlands compose sixty-five percent of remnant wetland habitat in the Central Valley, making them important habitat strongholds. By supporting wetland owners to flood-up dry wetlands in the winter and spring, private wetlands can help to meet habitat needs for all waterbird species. This is especially important during extended drought when there is far less flooded habitat across the Central Valley.

Delta and South of Delta Wetlands Spring 2023

The objective of the Spring BirdReturns-Delta and South of Delta Wetland Program is to provide monetary support to private landowners to enable the flood up of managed seasonal wetlands by April 1 to a depth of 8-12” followed by a staged drawdown over a four-to-six-week period. Landowners can apply to enroll multiple wetland units/properties by submitting a bid for each wetland unit.

Wetlands located throughout the Delta and San Joaquin Valley are eligible for the spring program. Wetland managers are asked to meet specific conditions in their fields to provide high-quality habitat for waterbirds, specifically shallower water depths, low vegetation and crop residue, and minimal tillage.


Who is eligible:

  • All Delta and south of Delta wetlands >25 acres

  • Wetland owners with access to ground and/or surface water

  • For more detail on eligibility see Ineligible details below

Ineligible Due to Program Overlap and Geographic Restrictions:

  • Wetlands enrolled in the Presley Program or that are currently receiving annual funding to manage spring wetlands i.e. NRCS EQIP

  • Within 5 miles of major airports, including Sacramento, Travis Air Force Base, Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, and Lemoore Naval Air Station

  • Groundwater pumping in areas that may negatively impact municipal wells

  • Wetland Units less than 25 acres in size



  • Enrolled wetland units will be fully flooded (minimum depth of 8 to 12 inches at outflow, dependent on geography) with no exposed mudflat on April 1, 2023 and then carry out a staged drawdown over four weeks.

    • By April 15, 25-50% of the enrolled wetland unit(s) is mudflats

    • By April 30, 75% of the enrolled wetland unit(s) is mudflats

    • Allow access to wetland units for compliance and biological monitoring during the drawdown period

Bid Ranking and Scoring Process

All bids will be ranked and scored by representatives from the Migratory Bird Conservation PartnershipDucks Unlimited, and the California Waterfowl Association. This committee will assess bids according to standardized methods, using the best available science and tools that predict the habitat value of each bid according to its location in the landscape, history of bird use in the surrounding area, and timing. Those bids that are able to flood longer, have larger acreages, and have competitive bids will rank higher.

Application Instructions

To apply for the Spring BirdReturns-Delta and South of Delta Wetlands Program, submit a bid consisting of the desired dollar amount per acre to create the habitat as described in the program details below.




February 6, 2024

Financial Instrument


Updated March 27, 2024

Image Credit: Sara Cottle

This information was gathered from public sources. Ambrook is not responsible for or able to affect the results of any financial programs listed, nor are they responsible for any incorrect information that is listed or is on the hyperlinked external sites. All information is subject to change.

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