The Land Retirement Demonstration Project



Photo of a group of San Joaquin kit foxes

Land Retirement Overview

Photo from an overflight of the Tranquillity HRS plots

Habitat Restoration Study

Photo of Hemizonia fitchii with a pollinator

Valley Flora Propagation Center

The Land Retirement Program

The San Joaquin Valley Drainage Program, established in 1984, combined federal and state efforts to investigate drainage issues in the Valley, and to identify possible strategies for addressing these issues (see: SJVDP 1990). The program estimated that by 2040 approximately 160,000 to 225,000 ha (400,000 to 554,000 ac) would become unsuitable for irrigated agriculture if no actions were taken to remedy drainage problems.

The Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), enacted in 1992 as Public Law 102-575 Title 34, Section 3408(h), authorized the purchase of land, water and other property interests from willing sellers who received CVP water. Such lands would achieve the program goals to reduce drainage, enhance fish and wildlife resources and make water available for other CVPIA purposes.

Land retirement (i.e., the removal of lands from irrigated agriculture) was proposed as one strategy to reduce drainage-related problems. In this approach, lands that were characterized by low productivity, poor drainage, shallow water tables, and high groundwater selenium concentrations would be retired from irrigated agriculture through a willing seller program.

The Land Retirement Program (LRP) was developed cooperatively by an interagency Department of the Interior team with representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Land Retirement Team (LRT) was charged with the task of implementing the Land Retirement Program. The LRT was composed of the following individuals: program manager Stephen Lee (USBR), Bea Olsen (FWS), and Dr. Stephen Laymon (BLM).

The Land Retirement Demonstration Project

Nearly all of the San Joaquin Valley's natural habitats have been either converted for human uses or are severely degraded (click here to read more on this topic). The retired agricultural lands have the potential to be restored to self-sustaining ecosystems that could provide critical habitat for San Joaquin native species.

To this end, the Land Retirement Demonstration Project (LRDP) was implemented to provide site specific scientific data to guide the implementation of the LRP and to identify potential benefits and impacts of retiring land from irrigated agriculture. The LRDP was a large-scale, and relatively long-term project. Project activities were centered on two sites-the Tranquillity site and the Atwell Island site-comprising nearly 3,240 ha (8,000 ac). During the course of the project, three ESRP biologists have served as Biological Coordinator for the project: Michelle Selmon (1998-2000), Curt Uptain (2000-2005), and Nur Ritter (2005-2007).

A wide range of restoration-related activities were conducted under the auspices of the Land Retirement Demonstration Project:

  • Habitat Restoration Studies: Large-scale habitat restoration studies were established at each of the two sites.
  • Research: Numerous research trials were conducted.
  • Valley Flora Propagation Center (VFPC): The VFPC at the Tranquillity site represents a crucial repository of local genotypes of San Joaquin Valley native species.
  • Outreach: In the past, The LRDP possessed a dynamic outreach program with a variety of ongoing projects with local schools and groups.

The links on both sides of the page will lead you to overviews and discussions of the many aspects of this project.

San Joaquin Valley Drainage Program (1990):
A copy of the final report ("A Management Plan for Agricultural Subsurface Drainage and Related Problems on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley") is available as a pdf file. Please note that this is a large file (ca. 10 megabytes).

Page created: January 5, 2005; Last updated: July 29, 2009    

Photo of berm installation on the Tranquillity HRS

Restoration Research

Image showing children participating in out science education program


Links to Other Restoration Sites

Data, Reports, and Links

Information Contact

The Land Retirement Program is a Department of the Interior program
composed of representatives from the USBR, FWS, and BLM.