California Waterfowl Habitat Program


The CWHP provides economic incentives to private landowners who agree to manage their properties in accordance with a wetland management plan developed cooperatively by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists and the participating landowner.

History: In response to the widespread loss of wetland habitat in California, State Senator Robert Presley introduced the California Waterfowl Habitat Preservation Act in 1987. The Act established the California Waterfowl Habitat Program (CWHP), a multi-faceted wetland incentive program designed to improve habitat for waterfowl on private lands. Consistent with its primary waterfowl habitat objectives, the program also endeavors to enhance habitat for shorebirds, wading birds, and other wetland-dependent species.

Past Success: Management activities conducted during the first 14 years of the program have resulted in increased food supplies for wintering waterfowl, optimal foraging depths for waterfowl and shorebirds, and summer wetlands crucial to breeding ducks, shorebirds, and a host of other wetland wildlife. To date, the CWHP has enrolled 29,295 acres of habitat on 126 properties throughout the Central Valley.


After a contract is signed and a Site-Specific Management Plan is developed, a typical year is as follows:

Spring (March – May)

  • CDFW biologists will meet with the landowner each spring to assess wetland conditions and prescribe site-specific habitat management actions (e.g. irrigations, summer discing, weed abatement). The annual spring meeting provides an opportunity for the State and the landowner to discuss management objectives, as well as what actions to take during the summer growing season.
  • Following the spring meeting, CDFW biologists will develop an “Annual Work Plan” outlining what was discussed at the spring meeting. The Annual Work Plan will be sent to the landowner as a guide for that year’s habitat management. It will also be the guide by which CDFW biologists determine compliance on the fall visit.


  • Implementation of the Annual Work Plan by the landowner.

Fall (August – September)

  • CDFW biologists will meet again with the landowner to examine wetland conditions, discuss future management objectives, and determine if the landowner complied with the Annual Work Plan. If found in compliance, CDFW staff then authorize issuance of the full incentive payment which the landowner will receive on his/her contract anniversary date.


  • Approximately 75% of the wetlands enrolled in the program shall be flooded to a minimum depth of 4" by December 1 of each year. The remaining 25% of the wetlands shall be flooded to a minimum depth of 4" by December 15. Fall flooding of these wetlands may take place earlier than the required dates if so desired by the landowner. Flooded seasonal wetlands shall remain flooded at an average depth ranging from 4-10" until spring drawdown. The date of spring drawdown will be identified in the Annual Work Plan.