Voluntary Stewardship Program!
The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is an alternative to the Growth Management Act (GMA) and its Critical Areas Ordinance requirements. The difference between the two is that under VSP, priority is given to protecting both critical areas and the viability of agriculture. The five types of critical areas subject to VSP are wetlands, frequently flooded areas, aquifer recharge areas, geologically hazardous areas, and habitat. Only those lands that intersect with agriculture activities will be addressed under VSP. The Voluntary Stewardship Program is intended to give local land users a strong say in developing a plan that respects critical areas while maintaining the viability of agriculture in their community.
The County opted into the VSP process in 2012, and now, 4 years later, the legislature has fully funded VSP for the entire state. The County elected to have the Walla Walla County Conservation District direct the program. The first step is designating a local watershed group that will guide the development of the county work plan. The group will be formed with representatives from our agriculture community including livestock and small non-commercial ag operations, watershed planning, and other stakeholders. The county work plan will include, among other things, the critical areas subject to VSP, an outreach plan, and benchmarks or goals for the county. The process is guided by the Washington Conservation Commission; more information on the VSP process can be found at their website: http://scc.wa.gov/voluntary-stewardship-program/. The District is now embarking on this process and invites interested parties to contact us right away!