Grasslands Wildlife Management Area

512_GWMA wetland_USFWS
Grasslands Wildlife Management Area
The Grasslands Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was established by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service in 1979 and is located in western Merced County,
California within the San Joaquin River basin. Unlike typical National Wildlife
Refuges, the Grasslands WMA is comprised entirely of privately-owned lands
on which perpetual conservation easements have been purchased. These
easements preserve wetland and grassland habitats, as well as some wildlife-
friendly agricultural lands. The preservation of these areas prevents conversion
of the land to uses not compatible with migratory bird and other wildlife values,
while allowing daily management to remain under the landowners’ control.

The Grasslands WMA can be divided into eastern and western divisions
separated by the San Joaquin River. In the heart of the western division is
the Grassland Resource Conservation District, an area of 70,000 acres of
private wetlands and associated grasslands, and over 30,000 acres of federal
National Wildlife Refuges and state Wildlife Management Areas. These wetlands
constitute 30% of the remaining wetlands in California's Central Valley and are
extremely important to Pacific Flyway waterfowl populations. Over 60 million
duck use-day and 3 million goose use-days occur annually in the Grasslands

The Grasslands WMA supports diverse habitats including seasonally flooded
marshlands, semi-permanent marshes, riparian habitats, wet meadows, vernal
pools, native uplands, pastures, and native grasslands. In addition to waterfowl,
these habitats support shorebirds, wading birds, songbirds, raptors, and other
wildlife species. Several federal- and state-listed endangered and threatened
plants and animals are present in the area and benefit by the habitat protection
provided by the easement program. From 1979 to the present, nearly 80,000
acres have been incorporated into the Grasslands WMA.

Technical Assistance for Landowners

Technical assistance is available to all Grasslands WMA area landowners who
request it, whether they participate in the easement program or not. Many
landowners are attempting to manage their wetland water supplies more
efficiently; others are searching for ways to grow larger, more diverse stands
of moist-soil food plants to attract waterfowl; and some are looking for ways to
diversify their habitats to attract different suites of wildlife.

Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program

In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service initiated the Partners for Fish & Wildlife
cost-share program which pays landowners up to 50% of the funding necessary
to accomplish wetland restoration and enhancement projects on their property.
This program provides landowners with the opportunity to perform wildlife habitat
improvements they might not be able to afford without some type of financial
assistance. Typical projects that have been cost-shared in the past include the
installation of new water control structures; the construction of swale drains that
increase efficiency of habitat management practices, and the construction of
levees and waterfowl loafing islands. Typical maintenance practices like disking
and mowing cannot be cost-shared under this program.