Private Lands Programs
at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex

The Private Lands Program was initiated at Sacramento NWR Complex in 1981 to protect private wetlands in the Sacramento Valley for the benefit of migratory birds and other wetland dependent wildlife. Initially, the focus of the private lands staff was implementing the Service's Conservation Easement Program to protect existing wetland resources. Over the years, the Private Lands Program has grown to include the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and an active Technical Assistance Program. Today, the private lands staff works not only to protect wetlands but to restore, enhance and manage a variety of habitats for the benefit of migratory birds, anadromous fish, and threatened and endangered species. Learn more about our programs below.

Conservation Easement Program

The Conservation Easement Program is a voluntary program where willing landowners are paid a percentage of their wetland or agricultural property's fair market value for purchase of the farming and development rights in perpetuity.

The Service has been implementing the Conservation Easement Program in the Sacramento Valley since 1981. Funding for this program comes from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (Duck Stamp Fund), and accordingly, easement acquisition focuses on the protection of existing and restored wetlands for migratory birds. Conservation easements have been purchased from willing landowners in three different acquisition areas (Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area, Willow Creek-Lurline Wildlife Management Area, and North Central Valley Wildlife Area) which cover the majority of the Sacramento Valley floor. Since the program's inception, 145 Easements have been purchased which protect over 30,000 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat.

The Conservation Easement Program is completely voluntary, and as such, the Service will pay willing landowners a percentage of their wetland or agricultural property's fair market value to purchase the farming and development rights in perpetuity. When purchasing easements on agricultural land we work directly with landowners to develop, fund and implement a wetland restoration plan. While farming and development are prohibited on easement lands, the landowner retains many rights including: trespass rights, mineral rights, grazing rights, habitat management rights, the right to hunt and/or operate a hunting club, and the ability to pursue other types of undeveloped recreation (i.e. fishing, hiking, etc.). The Service does not require landowners to flood their wetland properties, however, the Service reserves the right to flood easement properties at the government’s expense. Landowners are not required to follow a management plan, but technical assistance is provided by the Service and landowners are encouraged to participate in various programs for habitat restoration, enhancement and management. The Service conducts annual aerial flights to monitor for compliance with the easement. 

For more information, contact the Easement Manager at (530) 934-2801

Useful Document:

USFWS Sacramento Valley Conservation Easement Guidelines

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) program was officially established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1987. A group of Service biologists and other conservation partners had the vision to look beyond the boundaries of government lands and see the opportunity to work cooperatively with private landowners. The PFW program was developed to complement many of the traditional Service easement programs by offering restoration and enhancement agreements, and to provide financial and technical assistance to interested landowners. 

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program was established at Sacramento NWR Complex in 1990. Since its inception, PFW has worked cooperatively with private landowners to implement over 180 PFW projects on private lands throughout the northern Sacramento Valley and the neighboring foothills. During this time, wetlands, native uplands and riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

Learn more about riparian
forest habitats have been restored and enhanced to benefit many federal trust resources, including: waterfowl, migratory birds, anadromous fish and threatened and endangered species. The PFW program provides cost-sharing and technical assistance to private landowners, local governments, Native American tribes, educational institutions, and other entities.

For more information, contact the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist at (530) 934-2801. 

Technical Assistance Program

If you need help with a habitat restoration project or have a land management question, the private lands staff at the Sacramento NWR Complex can provide assistance with a variety of issues including:

  • Wetland, riparian and upland habitat restoration, enhancement and protection
  • Wetland/Moist-soil management
  • Invasive species control
  • Soil and water quality improvement
  • Wildlife friendly agricultural practices

On the ground, we can provide project design, engineering and construction management capabilities required to undertake most habitat restoration projects in the Sacramento Valley.

Technical and financial assistance is also available to landowners through various programs provided by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, California Department of Fish and Game and other conservation organizations. The private lands staff at the Sacramento NWR Complex can assist you in recognizing opportunities within these programs.

For assistance, contact the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist, or the Easement Manager at (530) 934-2801.