Montezuma Wetlands

Central & Western: Priority Conservation Landscape

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.

Why We Work Here

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:

  • Invasive species
  • Hydrological alteration caused by historical agricultural activities
Conservation Actions

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.