New Voluntary Stewardship Program Aims to Create Solutions for Environmental Protection, Agricultural Viability
In 2011, Stevens County elected to participate in the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP), becoming one of 28 counties in Washington to “opt-in”. The VSP represents an alternative way for counties to protect Critical Areas on lands where agriculture is practiced. 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 protected habitats, 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, such as exclusionary buffer zones. In the coming months, a VSP Workgroup comprised of interested farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, and tribal representatives will be created. The Workgroup will be tasked with developing the VSP Work Plan, which will outline stewardship practices regarding agricultural activities within Critical Areas in Stevens County. The efforts of the Workgroup will be supported by the VSP Program Staff, which includes representatives from WSU Extension, Stevens County Conservation District, and Stevens County Land Services.
All interested community members are invited to attend an introductory meeting about the Voluntary Stewardship Program hosted by the Stevens County Commissioners and the VSP Program Staff. The meeting will be held in Colville on Tuesday, March 29th, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, at the Community College of Spokane – Colville Center’s Rendezvous Theater, 985 S. Elm, Colville, WA. The meeting will cover the history and background of the VSP, its implications for Stevens County, key definitions and procedures, and information on the planned VSP Workgroup. This program has important implications for the future regulatory environment surrounding Critical Areas and agriculture in Stevens County, and strong public input and participation is needed!
If you have any questions about the VSP program you can contact Dean Hellie at the Stevens County Conservation District, (509) 685-0937, ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
View letter from the Board of Commissioners