Protecting the Indian River Lakes Wetland

Benefits People, Wildlife

Protecting valuable shoreline and wetland habitat from unwise development in the St. Lawrence Valley of upstate New York has enhanced fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and increased recreational opportunities. 


The Indian River Lakes region of upstate New York’s St. Lawrence Valley is characterized by several habitat types in close proximity, including wetlands, shorelines and riparian regions, and upland areas such as forests, shrublands, and grasslands. This varied ecosystem provides crucial migratory and nesting habitat for many bird species that have been declining, largely due to habitat loss; these include the American black duck, common goldeneye, golden-winged warbler and Henslow’s sparrow. The area is home to roughly 20 percent of North America’s breeding bobolink population. A variety of other fish and wildlife species also depend on this ecosystem for shelter, food, and spawning sites. Unfortunately the expansion of nearby cities and towns, along with a high demand for waterfront property, is threatening these shorelines and wetlands by encroaching on natural space and increasing polluted runoff. Thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Ducks Unlimited is working to limit these impacts and preserve the Indian River Lakes ecosystem. Between 2011 and 2012 Ducks Unlimited coordinated the purchase of several threatened high quality habitat parcels, and is working with partner organizations to limit their future development.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Unplanned development


Marsh with autumn trees in the background

This project will help preserve 8 miles of shoreline and 406 acres of wetlands in the Indian River Lakes ecosystem. Photo credit: Ducks Unlimited.

Results and Accomplishments

Ducks Unlimited obtained 591 acres of wetlands, uplands, and shoreline that will be protected from development. This will preserve wildlife habitat and help combat habitat fragmentation, as these sites are contiguous with another 540 acres of protected wetlands. Retaining the integrity of wetland ecosystems will help filter out sediments and pollutants from the water, beneficial to both the native wildlife and the people who depend on this water for drinking, bathing, washing, and fishing. Preserving the natural state of these lands and preventing unwise private property development allows the public to continue accessing and enjoying them, increasing outdoor recreation opportunities.