The wetlands and adjacent agricultural lands in the Deer Island area provide significant habitat for waterfowl in the Lower Columbia River. Deer Island itself exceeds 3,000 acres in size, and although diked, provides a diverse mosaic of habitats that waterfowl use during the breeding, migration, and wintering periods. Local production consists primarily of mallards, cinnamon teal, and wood ducks. During the fall migration, Deer Island is a major staging area, situated between the Willamette Valley and Sauvie Island coastal estuaries. The area holds 10,000 ducks at times, mostly mallards, pintail and wigeon. It is also common to see as many as six subspecies of Canada geese here. Sandhill cranes, tundra swans and trumpeter swans also stage and winter here.

Over a decade ago, Ducks Unlimited began discussing a wetland enhancement project with the Kem family, owners of Deer Island. Initially, the idea wasn't deemed compatible with the operation of the Ranch. Over time, DU was able to work with the family to develop a project unlike any other in the Lower Columbia River.

Although the island is largely undeveloped, it has been drained for agriculture. While the agricultural component is important for waterfowl, wetland values are limited due to drainage and diking. In a typical year, the wetlands and sloughs would dry up in the late summer months, and not fill until the fall rains and river levels rose. On October 25 th , 2003 DU dedicated the restoration of 350 acres of seasonal wetlands on the Deer Island Stock Ranch to the private donors that funded the entire project.