Voluntary Stewardship Program
Washington State's Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) was created in 2011 to provide an alternative approach for counties to address Growth Management requirements for agricultural activities.
How it Works
The Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) administers funding for counties to implement the program. Counties then designate a work group to develop a watershed-scale plan that will:
- Identify critical resource concerns.
- Identify agricultural activities in the critical areas.
- Create a plan for targeted outreach to assist landowners in developing farm plans that address agricultural impacts to critical areas on their property.
- Identify and maintain economically viable agriculture while protecting and restoring critical areas
In October 2015, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) worked with the Kittitas County Conservation District to enlist our assistance with facilitation of the Watershed Group. We entered into an interlocal agreement with the County in November. The BOCC passed Resolution 2016-001 in January 2016 designating the Kittitas County Conservation District as the lead entity for the Voluntary Stewardship Program.
What are Critical Areas?
There are five critical areas identified in Washington's GMA:
- Frequently flooded areas
- Critical aquifer recharge areas
- Geologically hazardous areas
- Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas
1990 – Washington Legislature passes Growth Management Act (GMA), which requires state and local governments to manage growth by identifying and protecting critical areas, designating urban growth areas, and preparing and implementing plans and regulations. While well-intentioned, implementation of GMA requirements meets with years of conflict and lawsuits.
2007 – In response to GMA conflicts, Washington Legislature charges the Ruckelshaus Center—a collaborative, problem-solving center—to examine the conflict between protecting agricultural land and protecting critical areas under GMA.
2010-11 – Based on recommendations of the Ruckelshaus Center, the legislature creates VSP at the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC). VSP represents a voluntary, incentive-based approach that offers counties an alternative for meeting GMA requirements related to protecting critical areas and agricultural lands. No new state funding was provided for VSP, and counties are not obligated to implement VSP until funding is provided.
2011-2012 – Kittitas County and 27 other counties across the state exercise the option to opt-in to VSP in stead of continuing to try to meet GMA requirements as written under existing law. The Kittitas Board of County Commissioners passed Ordinance 2011-012 on November 30, 2011
2013 – Washington State Legislature made State funds available for two pilot counties— Thurston and Chelan.
2015 - Kittitas County receives funding to begin
Kittitas County VSP Watershed Group webpage
The next meeting is scheduled for December 8, 2023 10 AM to 12 PM at KCCD Conference Room (2211 W Dolarway Road, Ellensburg). Find the agenda here with virtual meeting participation instructions.
Biennial Report Issued:
KCCD, on behalf of the Kittitas County VSP Watershed Group, issued the Biennial Report for Kittitas County. Click the link below to learn about the progress made in our County.
Final Kittitas County
VSP Work Plan
The Kittitas County VSP Work Plan was submitted to the Washington State Conservation Commission on March 1, 2018. The Work Plan was presented to the State Technical Panel on March 30, 2018. It was approved by unanimous vote of the Technical Panel on April 27, 2018. The final Work Plan is available here:
Check out this VSP Story Map
This story map (click below) explains the Voluntary Stewardship Program and how it applies locally to agricultural practices.