Voluntary Stewardship Program Creates Solutions for Environmental Protection, Agricultural Viability
In 2011, Stevens County elected to participate in the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP), becoming one of 27 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. 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. Critical Areas include wetlands, Fish and Wildlife protected habitats, frequently flooded areas, areas of geological instability, and aquifer recharge areas. This VSP program will serve as an alternative to Critical Area regulations under the GMA, such as exclusionary buffer zones. A VSP Workgroup comprised of interested farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, and tribal representatives meets quarterly. The Workgroup is tasked with implementing the VSP Work Plan, which outlines 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 WSU Extension, Stevens County Conservation District, and Stevens County Land Services.
All interested community members are invited to attend meetings about the Voluntary Stewardship Program hosted by the VSP Program Staff. The meetings are held in Chewelah, weeknights from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, at varying locations; they cover VSP projects, program proposals, and relevant conservation topics. 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 VSP program coordinator Adam Cares at (509) 684-2401 or email@example.com
Or Dean Hellie at the Stevens County Conservation District, (509) 684-7579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.