Northern Montezuma State Wildlife Management Area

Over 7,700 state-owned acres of emergent marshes, forested wetlands, old fields, meadows, farm fields and woodlands.

This state-owned public land is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Visit the DEC’s Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area Webpage

The Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area (NMWMA) is part of the 50,000 acre Montezuma Wetlands Complex, which includes the federally-owned Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, land owned by other conservation groups, and private property.

The Northern Montezuma wildlife habitat expansion and restoration project has been ongoing since 1991. Approximately 4,000 acres have been added to the 3,500 acre Howland’s Island Unit, which has been in NYSDEC ownership since the 1930s. The expanded WMA is part of the State-wide network of public lands known as Wildlife Management Areas. This network of WMAs totals more than 200,000 acres and provides protected and managed habitats for wildlife and wildlife-based recreation.

NYSDEC’s Northern Montezuma WMA strongly complements the adjacent National Wildlife Refuge as one of the most significant migratory bird resting, feeding and staging areas in the Atlantic Flyway. The area provides a total of 17,000 acres of protected lands – mostly continentally-important wetlands habitats – for hundreds of thousands of individuals of several priority species of waterfowl and other wetland birds annually. More than one million waterfowl pass through the area in spring and fall, as do many species of shorebirds and songbirds. Northern Montezuma WMA is home to many rare species including State-listed endangered species such as the bald eagle, cerulean warbler, Indiana bat, sedge wren, osprey, least bittern, pied-billed grebe, and northern harrier.

The core of the habitat work at Northern Montezuma WMA entails the restoration of areas which were historically converted from wetlands to agriculture. After State acquisition, the original hydrology of these farmed muck fields is restored. The resulting high-quality wetlands are monitored and managed as necessary to maintain habitat quality. Enhancement of existing wetlands involves increasing open water pockets in vegetation-choked areas through excavation of shallow potholes and level channels. To provide valuable nesting cover for waterfowl and wetland birds, and control erosion, grasslands on adjacent uplands are also managed. Public benefits associated with this habitat expansion and protection include increased access to lands for compatible recreational uses and increased opportunities for tourism within the region, important to the economic development of the surrounding communities. In May of 2007, Audubon NY and NYSDEC opened the 5,200 square foot Montezuma Audubon Center. It is surrounded by NYSDEC lands and offers excellent opportunities for nature-based tourism, and for children and adults to learn about and interact with the area’s natural resources. Partnerships are strong and diverse and continue to be a key and central component of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex. In addition to the Friends of Montezuma Wetlands Complex, private conservation organizations include Ducks Unlimited, Inc, The Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever. These partners continue to renew cooperative agreements and contribute resources for projects. Public hunting, trapping and fishing are encouraged on the WMA in accordance with State Fish and Wildlife Laws and Regulations. Hiking biking and canoeing are allowed. Motorized vehicles are NOT allowed beyond barrier gates. There is no swimming, camping, removal or destruction of vegetation, or littering allowed.

The Northern Montezuma WMA is located in southeastern Wayne County and northwestern Cayuga County, near the towns of Savannah and Port Byron. It can be found just north of the NYS Thruway and about halfway between the western and central NY population centers of Rochester and Syracuse.

Read More About Howland’s Island »

The Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area is dedicated, through the protection and restoration of wildlife habitat, to the conservation of migratory birds and resident wildlife, and to the recreational uses of those resources. Recreational opportunities include:

  • hunting
  • canoeing
  • birding
  • hiking
  • trapping
  • fishing
  • or just enjoying the natural world