Voluntary Stewardship Program FAQs

What are Critical Areas?

Critical Areas perform key functions that enhance our environment and protect us from hazards. As defined in RCW 36.70A.030 critical areas include: wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, critical aquifer recharge areas, frequently flooded areas, and geologically hazardous areas. For detailed descriptions of each critical area, click here.


What are the goals of the VSP?

The overall goals of the VSP are to protect and enhance critical areas within the area where agricultural activities are conducted, while maintaining and improving the long-term viability of agriculture and reducing the conversion of farmland to other uses. The VSP also aims to focus and maximize voluntary incentive programs to encourage good riparian and ecosystem stewardship as an alternative to historic approaches used to protect critical areas.

The VSP aspires to encourage and foster a spirit of cooperation and partnership among county, tribal, environmental, and agricultural interests to better ensure the program’s success.


What are the differences between VSP and the current Growth Management regulations?

Existing GMA
Is compulsory
Mandated requirements from state
Can feel antagonistic between County and landowners
Focuses upon agricultural land designations
By individual land parcel
Uses buffers to protect critical areas and voluntary programs
Protection of critical areas through regulatory buffers combined with enforcement program
Neutral position
Uses buffers to protect critical areas
Neutral position
Based on established buffers
Enforcement triggered by land use activity or development
Adopted and defended by County

Is voluntary
Work plan developed by stakeholder group
Encourages and fosters a spirit of cooperation and partnership between landowners and county
Focuses on agricultural activities
By watershed or river reach
Uses landowners’ stewardship plans
Focus is on critical area function rather than per parcel
Concerned with viability of agriculture
Uses goals and benchmarks
Ensure outreach and technical assistance is provided to agricultural operators
Based on measurable objectives that are monitored
Monitoring and reporting
Adopted and defended by S.C.C.


Why should I participate in the VSP?

  • It is an opportunity to work together with other farmers to promote volunteerism versus additional regulatory controls. This means more local control, more certainty and less regulations.
  • Help to create a baseline for your farm and farming in Stevens County.
  • Together, we can document advances and changes that have already occurred to improve stewardship.
  • Help to conserve, improve, and increase efficient use of natural resources to support greater yields and produce quality.
  • Promote a positive image of agriculture to the larger community.
  • Enhance marketability of agricultural products


What are the benefits for farmers in the VSP?

VSP also requires that the viability of agriculture be maintained. Under VSP, the future of farming is more secure in our county, because it sets forth as a given that the viability of agriculture is just as important a consideration as protection of critical areas.