Cover photo for Bird Returns Wetlands

Bird Returns Wetlands

The Nature Conservancy

Closed February 18, 2022


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 2022

In response to the current severe drought, the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership (The Nature Conservancy, Audubon California, and Point Blue Conservation Science) in cooperation with California Waterfowl Association and Ducks Unlimited, and funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, is coordinating an emergency drought response program to increase the amount of wetland habitat available in spring 2022.

The Spring BirdReturns-Delta and South of Delta Wetlands Program provides incentive payments for wetland owners to maintain fully flooded wetlands — using surface or groundwater — beginning April 1, 2022, followed by a staged drawdown over a four-week period.


Who is eligible

  • Delta and south of Delta wetlands >25 acres

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

  • For more detail on eligibility see Program Overlap 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 mudflats on April 1, 2022, 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

Ranking Criteria

  • Applications will be ranked on duration of flooding, habitat quality, and total cost based on bid ($/acre)

    • Habitat Quality: Larger areas with sparse to no vegetation coverage may rank higher

    • Bid competitiveness: The amount requested (total cost ($/acre)

    • Size of wetland: Larger wetland units may rank higher

Similar Programs


Release Date

January 31, 2022


February 18, 2022


The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Financial Instrument


Image Credit

Sara Cottle

Updated August 26, 2022

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.

Explore hundreds more programs on Ambrook.