Voluntary Stewardship Program

The VSP represents an alternative way for counties to protect Critical Areas on lands where agriculture is practiced. In 2011, Stevens County elected to participate in the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP), becoming one of 27 counties in Washington to “opt-in”. Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA) requires the protection of Critical Areas, but employs a traditional, regulatory approach that could constrain agricultural viability in the future.

Critical Areas include wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, frequently flooded areas, areas of geological instability, and aquifer recharge areas. The primary objective of the VSP is twofold: to protect Critical Areas, and to promote the economic success of the agricultural sector. The balance between environmental protection and agricultural viability can be a contentious issue, and the VSP aims to address this by advancing voluntary, locally-driven solutions rather than more regulatory oversight. This will serve as an alternative to Critical Area regulations under the GMA.

A local workgroup comprised of farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, and tribal representatives meet on a monthly basis to discuss the stewardship practices regarding agricultural activities within Critical Areas in Stevens County. The efforts of the workgroup are supported by the VSP Program Staff, which includes representatives from Stevens County Conservation District, Stevens County Land Services, and WSU Extension.
Places where agriculture and critical areas overlap

VSP only applies to places where agriculture and critical areas overlap (see diagram). If you own or operate land that falls into this category, you can use certain voluntary stewardship practices to help the county meet the goals outlined in the Stevens County VSP work plan. This will prevent new regulations from being created that would affect agricultural producers in the county.


Important Legal Documents Regarding the VSP

ESHB 1886

Effective July 22, 2011, Engrossed House Bill 1886 establishes a new voluntary stewardship program as an alternative means of protecting critical areas on agricultural land.

 RCW 36.70A.700 – 36.70A.760

This section of the RCW codifies ESHB 1886 into twelve sections defining the VSP process.