Until the 1930s, the Montezuma wetlands were treated the same way wetlands were treated everywhere—dammed, altered, ditched and drained. But in 1937, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the importance of the area and purchased 6,432 acres of the former marsh. Restoration efforts soon followed.
Today, The Nature Conservancy and partners continue to restore Montezuma's 36,050 acres of wetlands.
As one of the most important wetland complexes in the Northeast, Montezuma is a Registered National Natural Landmark and a vital resting, feeding and staging area for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway.
The complex is a mosaic of marshes, swamps, streams, ponds, floodplains and forests that provide critical habitat for more than one million waterfowl and innumerable shorebirds and songbirds each year. Montezuma supports several nesting colonies of black tern, black-crowned night heron and great blue heron.
Threats to the Montezuma Wetlands include:
The Nature Conservancy partners with state and federal conservation organizations and private landowners to restore Montezuma's wetlands, protect them from development and invasive species, and implement responsible recreational use of the area.
As a private organization, The Nature Conservancy plays a vital role at Montezuma by helping the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation acquire important lands and waters.
Over the years, we’ve acquired more than 3,000 acres of vital property at Montezuma. These lands are either donated to the state or federal government or transferred at cost.
In 2000, we worked with Ducks Unlimited to secure $2.5 million from Congress to expand Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.
The Nature Conservancy also owns an extensive inland salt marsh—Carncross Salt Marsh—at Montezuma that we manage for conservation purposes.
Our partners in conservation include: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Unlimited and New York Audubon.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is located within this landscape; an interpretive center is located in Seneca Falls. The NYS DEC and New York Audubon also operate a visitor center in Savannah.
The first documented breeding pair of sandhill cranes in New York was discovered in Montezuma in 2003. During spring migration, as many as 100,000 snow geese utilize the marsh. Many wildflowers at Montezuma peak between May and June. Look for violets, trillium, mayapples, vetches and mustards. Iris, mallow and white water lily put on their best shows in late July.
At 36,050 acres, the Montezuma Wetlands are located across Seneca and Wayne Counties.