Projects and Research

Wetland Restoration/Montezuma Wetlands Complex Partnership 

As an establishing member of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex (Complex) partnership, the Montezuma NWR focuses much of its resources on wetland restoration. The Complex partnership includes the Montezuma NWR, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, Montezuma Audubon Center, Ducks Unlimited, and The Nature Conservancy. Complex partners work together to restore the historic Montezuma marshes—50,000 acres of wetlands that were drained in the early 1900s as a result of canal construction. 

While the main purpose of the Complex partnership is to manage the area comprehensively (since the wildlife does not pay any mind to land ownership boarders!) to benefit marsh-dwelling wildlife, we also work together to provide opportunities for you to enjoy nature and get involved. Guided tours and educational programs offer in-person experiences to get to know not only the lands and waters, but also the staff. The Complex’s premiere volunteer program (MARSH! – the Montezuma Alliance for the Restoration of Species and Habitats!) allows you to work side-by-side with staff and other volunteers while you help restore habitats for native species. You also get to go “behind the scenes” of refuge management and enter into areas on the Complex where most visitors are not permitted! 

Land Acquisition   

Land acquisition has been part of Montezuma’s story since it was established. The refuge, in cooperation with the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, is actively purchasing land from willing sellers in an effort to restore the historic Montezuma marshes.  Tax dollars are not used, but rather funds are primarily collected from the sale of Duck Stamps. While migratory bird hunters are required by law to purchase a Duck Stamp each year, we also encourage other refuge visitors to buy one to help support the land restoration efforts that result in other activities like birding and photography! 

Water Level Management for Priority Species 

The 10,000-acre Montezuma NWR is located in what was historically called the Montezuma Marshes. The water level within these marshes has been lowered by 10 feet for the construction and maintenance of the NY State Canal System, giving rise to the need to create and manage impoundments to provide historic habitat conditions.  

We manage water levels within these impoundments to provide habitat for high conservation priority waterbird species including: migrating waterfowl, such as northern pintail; migrating shorebirds, such as greater and lesser yellowlegs; and a variety of nesting marsh birds, such as black terns, American and least bitterns, and pied-billed grebes. Species within these groups require different water levels and habitat conditions so impoundments are managed in a rotation to provide a variety of habitats at any given time. 

When you visit the refuge, you are likely to see impounded areas that have been completely drained to mimic a drought and encourage plant growth, units with a lot of mudflats and shallow water for shorebirds, and wetlands with a mix of open water and vegetation for waterfowl and marsh birds.