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Washington State University

Working Lands Conservation

Program Contact: Stephen Bramwell
3608672161 •


Farmland constitutes a large proportion of rural and open land in south Puget Sound. At the same time, working lands make important contributions to the regional economy in overall sales, purchasing and job creation. As such, conservation on working lands has to balance resource protection with business viability.

Opportunities for Farmers to Participate in Conservation Work

There are several opportunities for farmers to get involved with conservation work, some that can provide financial benefits to growers. Others that help the working lands community as a whole maintain regulatory predictability.

  • The Thurston Conservation District is the primary service provider for natural resource management on farmland in Thurston County. The District’s services include Conservation Planning and Technical Services, a Soil Testing program, Equipment Rental, farmland transfer (Farmlink), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and the District is the primary technical service provider for the Voluntary Stewardship Program. Find more information here:
  • The Voluntary Stewardship Program in Thurston County focuses on providing regulatory predictability to farmers by working closely with stakeholders (including farmers) to develop voluntary, site-specific stewardship plans. Across the whole county, every rural and/or working lands Stewardship Plan can result in the necessary resource protection benefits to avoid further critical areas regulations.
  • Conservation cost-share programs are another opportunity for farmers. These include several NRCS funded programs, including easements, EQIP, and other opporunities.
  • Current work in the Deschutes Watershed us focused on developing a systematic approach for prioritizing possibly on-farm conservation projects, conducting outreach to farmers, and implementing cost-share efforts on the ground, such as building riparian fencing, planting buffer strips along water-courses, or constructing manure storage facilities. More information on this project is available here: Bramwell_PosterSouthSoundScienceSymposium.


Interested in learning about conservation easements? The Rural Conservation and Farmland Protection Workshops are an enlightening new series for farmers in Thurston County. This series kicked off on December 3, 2020 with a workshop on conservation easement essentials and featured a panel of farmers who provided real-life examples of how conservation easements worked for them. Experts in farmland protection presented baseline information you should know about conservation easements if you are a rural landowner.  Future topics in this series will include information on the Thurston County Habitat Conservation Plan and details on the myriad options for acquiring and a funding a conservation easement. You can view a recording of the December 3rd workshop here: