Skip Navigation

Restored Wetlands Giving New Life to Waterfowl, Wildlife

Restored Wetlands Giving New Life to Waterfowl, Wildlife

As our country developed into the most agriculturally productive nation in the world in the 1900s, more than half the nation’s wetlands were drained. In some states, more than 90 percent of the native wetland habitat was converted to farmland. In Montana, about 20 percent of wetlands were converted to farmland.

The wetlands were drained with public and government support in an effort to expand agricultural production, particularly in the first half of the 20th century.

Not surprisingly, waterfowl numbers dropped as wetlands were drained.

More recently, especially in the past 10-15 years, better knowledge of the values of wetlands has led to changes in public opinion and policy changes to restore wetlands rather than continuing to drain them.

And, as wetlands are being restored, waterfowl and wildlife are responding.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) has helped private landowners restore more than a million acres of wetlands since 1992, averaging more than 100,000 acres a year. In Montana, more than 25,000 acres of wetlands have been restored.

These restored wetlands give benefits on a continental scale to migratory birds. Many birds nesting in Canada or on restored WRP sites in Montana also winter in Louisiana or Mexico and Central America.

A scenario that’s being repeated across the country in varying scales comes from the northern Montana glaciated plains where numerous pothole wetlands have been restored. Surveys on these restored wetlands found about three breeding pairs of ducks per wetland acre, with important species such as mallards and northern pintails making up a large percentage of the pairs. On sites in one county, 14 species of ducks and 16 species of shorebirds were found using the restored wetlands. Other water birds such as eared and western grebes and black terns also nested in these wetlands.

In addition to wildlife benefits, research has shown that wetlands trap 50 percent of dissolved phosphate, 70 percent of dissolved nitrates, and up to 40 percent of dissolved organic nitrogen.

For more information about conservation practices that can improve wildlife habitat on your land, stop at the local NRCS office.

Wildlife Ways

Did you know....
The USDA has helped private landowners restore more than a million acres of wetlands in the U.S. since 1992. The restorations help tens of millions of migratory and nesting waterfowl as well as other wildlife species.


If you encounter any problems with the file provided on this page, please contact Technical Resources at 406-587-6822.

The following documents require Adobe Reader.

Specification 644: Wetland Wildlife Habitat Management (PDF; 47 KB)