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Summer Wetlands

Central Valley wetlands © Lighthawk

Wetland Programs

BirdReturns- Summer Wetlands 2024

The objective of the BirdReturns Summer Wetland Program is to incentivize private wetland managers to provide nesting and brood-rearing habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl. By flooding-up suitable wetland units in spring and maintaining habitat through July 15th, wetland managers can create this much needed habitat for nesting birds. Wetland managers are asked to meet specific conditions in their units to provide high-quality habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl, specifically, wetland units that can maintain deep flooding and have the ability to conduct a gradual drawdown.

Program Requirements


January 12th, 2024 – February 6th, 2024

All bids are final once the application period is closed


  • Wetland properties in the Suisun marsh, Delta, Sacramento Valley, Tulare, and San Joaquin Valley
  • Summer wetland units >15 acres throughout the Central Valley; Minimum of 5 acres in Tulare
  • Wetland owners with access to ground and/or surface water
  • Wetlands that can maintain established low salinity targets (Suisun Marsh only)
  • Must notify local mosquito vector control districts if selected to participate

Ineligible Applicants

  • Wetlands enrolled in any annual incentive program (i.e., NRCS EQIP) that provides payment to conduct flooding during the same time window
  • Within 5 miles of major airports, including Beale AFB, Sacramento International, Travis AFB, Fresno-Yosemite International and Lemoore Naval Air Station
  • Wetlands less than 15 acres in the Central Valley and less than 5 acres in Tulare.
  • Wetlands with high salinity and/or an inability to receive fresh water (Suisun only)

Practice Specifications


  • Wetland units must be fully flooded from April 1st – July 15th (Fully Flooded = no exposed mudflat, minimum depth of 12-24 inches at outflow, dependent on geography)
    • Management Options to select from:
      • Semi-permanent Wetland (Standard Drawdown): 
        • On August 1st, wetland units must be drawn down to ~50% mudflats (50% flooded).
      • Permanent Wetland (Delayed Drawdown): 
        • Wetland units must remain fully flooded until at least October 1st.
  • Suisun properties must conduct spring leach cycle by draining wetland(s) after waterfowl season and reflooding by April 1st to target depth
  • Allow access to wetland units for compliance and biological monitoring

Payment Rates

BUDGET: $2,000,000



REGIONPayment Rate per Acre
Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley
(Excluding Grasslands Water District)
Grasslands Water District, Suisun, and Delta$80

Application Ranking and Scoring Process

All bids will be ranked and scored by representatives from the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Ducks 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 application according to its location in the landscape, history of bird use in the surrounding area, and timing. Applicants that are able to flood longer and have larger acreages will rank higher.

Ranking Strategy:

Primary ranking will be conducted at the regional level. The highest-scoring bids will be selected within a region until the regional habitat target is met. Targets are set so each region has an opportunity to contribute toward a portion of the Central Valley-wide habitat target. Summer regional habitat targets are set at 5% of the Central Valley-wide habitat objective. With remaining funding, the highest-scoring bids across all regions will be selected until all funding is spent or the statewide habitat target is met.

Why the Summer Wetland Program Matters

Nurturing Brood Habitat: Vital for Waterbirds in the Central Valley

Brood habitat stands as a cornerstone for thriving waterfowl populations in California’s Central Valley. From providing essential nesting sites to offering sanctuary during molting and safeguarding vulnerable ducklings, these habitats are lifelines for our feathered friends. With lush vegetation, abundant food sources, and protective cover, brood habitats ensure successful reproduction and foster the growth of resilient waterfowl populations. Preserving and enriching these vital habitats is essential to sustaining the rich diversity of wildlife in our wetlands and safeguarding the ecological balance of our cherished landscapes.

Summer Wetlands (Photo: Robert Walsh)© Robert Walsh

Flooded Habitat vs. Traditionally Managed Wetlands

© Greg Golet
Gradual flood-up and draw-down practices on wetlands can provide needed habitat for a greater diversity of migratory birds by creating variable water depths that reflect the natural cycles birds depend on.
© Greg Golet
Traditionally managed wetlands that do not flood in the off-season, or flood to deeper depths for waterfowl, restrict the amount of habitat available to a greater diversity of species.

Questions? Contact Us!

Ashley Seufzer


Xerónimo Castañeda

(916) 737-5707 x119