State launches initiative to enhance 750+ acres at Montezuma Wetlands Complex

This week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of an environmental initiative to enhance more than 750 acres within the Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex. It’s one of the state’s most significant and oldest conservation areas.

As a primary focus of the Reimagine the Canals initiative introduced in the Governor’s 2020 State of the State address, the New York Power Authority, Canal Corporation, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are developing this collaborative project to improve and enhance the Montezuma’s wetlands while protecting its wildlife habitat and creating new recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.

“The Montezuma Wetlands Complex is one of New York’s greatest ecological treasures, and through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, we will enhance this complex so that our next generation can enjoy this wildlife treasure,” Governor Cuomo said. “These efforts will not only protect the wetlands and their habitats but will also encourage additional nature-based recreation and tourism activities that will benefit the entire Central New York region.”




This project is part of a state inter-agency initiative to enhance the area’s wetlands by increasing biodiversity, habitat values and carrying capacity for wildlife through the installation of additional infrastructure, floodplain regrading, berm restoration, and stream channel enhancement. The initiative is also expected to include invasive species control work, rare-habitat improvement, and recreational access improvements.

The initiative will focus on an area of approximately 750 acres of wetlands and associated habitats on state-owned land. The direct benefits resulting from its implementation are expected to include an improved and expanded wildlife habitat, expanded recreation and ecotourism, improved water quality, and enhanced flood and stormwater control. NYPA, the Canal Corporation, and NYSDEC are developing a series of projects, spanning 750 acres in DEC’s Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, for prioritized initial implementation.

The Montezuma Wetlands Complex, an area of about 50,000 acres situated at the outlet of Cayuga Lake, is one of the most ecologically significant areas in New York State. The complex consists of the National Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, the DEC’s Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, and lands owned by The Nature Conservancy and other private parties. It is in the middle of one of the busiest bird migration routes on the Atlantic Flyway and receives spring and fall migrations that number in the millions of birds. As such, the complex is a destination for wildlife, recreation, and ecotourism activities. More than 240 species of birds can be found in the complex, along with 43 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, and 16 species of amphibians.

“Audubon New York applauds Governor Cuomo’s commitment to enhancing the Montezuma Wetlands Complex – a migratory stopover for millions of birds and home to the Montezuma Audubon Center. This work will restore critical wetlands and create new opportunities for ecotourism, which will bring much-needed economic development to local communities. We look forward to collaborating with the State to introduce New Yorkers to the birds and habitats along the Erie Canalway and inspire a culture of environmental stewardship through awareness of local ecosystems and human impacts,” Montezuma Audubon Center Director Chris Lajewski added.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative Governor Cuomo and NYPA committed $300 million over five years to revitalize the Erie Canal corridor as a tourism and recreation destination while simultaneously boosting economic development and improving the resiliency of canalside communities.


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