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Maryland Waterfowl Restoration Program

The Maryland Waterfowl Restoration Program is a tax incentive program for waterfowl development and management on private lands.

By Chapter 482 of the Laws of Maryland of 1981, the General Assembly enacted Section 10-308.1 (e) (3) of the Natural Resources Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. In part this section confers upon the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Service the power to encourage waterfowl habitat conservation on private lands by entering into ten-year license agreements with private landowners for approved projects creating, developing, rehabilitating and/or preserving waterfowl habitats on their lands.

The law further provides that expenditures made for these approved projects pursuant to a license agreement are to be considered a contribution to the state of Maryland. The same law also created a Waterfowl Advisory Committee, appointed by the Governor, to advise the department on various matters pertaining to the program.

The Waterfowl Restoration Program does not retire crop lands from production nor does it open land to the public; that is left entirely up to the landowner or tenant.

In Maryland, drainage and development have
resulted in the destruction of more than
40 percent of the half-million acres of wetlands
that existed early in this century.

Goals and Objectives

The objective of the Maryland Waterfowl Restoration Program is to provide technical assistance to private landowners for developing and managing waterfowl habitats for breeding, migrating and wintering waterfowl. The goal of the program is to increase and improve wetland habitats, ensuring a diverse wetland plant community that will meet the biological requirements of a variety of wetland-dependent wildlife species.

Project Eligibility Rules

The licensed project area should encompass a minimum of ten (10) contiguous acres of habitat that will provide food and/or cover for ducks. Normal agricultural practices are permitted within the project area.

The project should include at least one (1) acre of semi-permanent water with nesting and resting habitat within or near the semi-permanent water. Private lands used for commercial hunting enterprises are not eligible.

Licenses Agreement

The license agreement includes an approved Waterfowl Habitat Management Plan to be carried out by the licensee. The contents of the plan are mutually agreed to by the licensee and the Wildlife and Heritage Service prior to signing the license agreement. A Wildlife and Heritage Service biologist can assist in preparing the plan.

The license agreement remains in effect for a period on ten (10) years from the date entered into and is renewable.

Upon request, the Wildlife and Heritage Service annually documents the status of the approved projects/measures detailed in the Waterfowl Habitat Management Plan. For tax purposes, a standard form is provided each year to the licensee after the inspection.

The Wildlife and Heritage Service does not regulate or record the dollar amounts of expenditures made by the licensee for approved projects. If called upon to provide documentation by the State Comptroller, it is the responsibility of the licensee to substantiate the actual amount of expenditures made for approved projects and claimed as contributions to the State of Maryland.

How to Participate

  1. Review the rules for project eligibility to determine if your proposed project area qualifies for the Maryland Waterfowl Restoration Program.
  2. Landowners who wish to participate should complete the Maryland Waterfowl Restoration Program Application Form and mail it to:       

    Maryland Waterfowl Restoration Program
    Maryland Department of Natural Resources
    Wildlife & Heritage Service
    828 B Airpax Road, Suite 500
    Cambridge, MD 21613
    or call 410-260-8589​

  3. Your completed application will be reviewed by the Regional Habitat Biologist for the county in which your property is located. Please be sure to include your telephone number (s) on the mail-in form. The Regional Habitat Biologist will contact you to arrange an inspection of your project area for eligibility in the program.
  4. After you enter the program, you will receive an official information kit that contains copies of all documents relating to the program, plus other useful and appropriate publications.
  5. Questions about the program may be directed to your district Wildlife Manager or to our Waterfowl Habitat Coordinator, Mr. Donald Webster in Cambridge at 410-260-8589.​

Click here for the Application Form​