The development of the Douglas County Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) work plan is underway. The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) became law in the state of Washington in 2011 under RCW 36.70A.705 as an alternative to critical area management. Traditionally, critical areas were subjected to the regulations of Critical Area Ordinances under the Growth Management Act. These regulations have proved to be difficult in locations where critical areas and agricultural activities intersect. Such difficulties include the financial and time restraints associated with permitting, the potential for agricultural lands being removed from production, the uncertainty involved, and the idea of forced compliance. The aim of VSP is to provide an alternative approach to the requirements of the Growth Management Act by relying on voluntary, incentive-based stewardship activities.
The stated intent of VSP is to, “Promote plans to protect and enhance critical areas within the area where agricultural activities are conducted, while maintaining and improving the long-term viability of agriculture in the state of Washington and reducing the conversion of farmland to other uses” (RCW 36.70A.700(2)(a). The five critical areas are defined as critical wildlife habitat, wetlands, geologically hazardous areas, frequently flooded areas and critical aquifer recharge zones.
Foster Creek CD has been designated as the lead to plan and implement the Douglas County VSP process. We have convened a work group to develop a plan that protects critical areas while improving the long-term viability of agriculture. Our work group has been meeting once a month since late summer. Our most recent meetings have focused on what “agricultural viability” means to Douglas County, and what we can do to improve it. We will continue to discuss this topic and will soon shift our focus to critical area protection and enhancement.
There is still plenty of work to be accomplished! If you are a producer in Douglas County, then the VSP process impacts you. We invite all interested stakeholders to attend and participate in work group meetings. We also welcome any and all public involvement, while commitment to serve on the work group is not required. VSP meetings will be held monthly at 1 pm in the Hearing Room at the Superior Court of Douglas County Building, 203 S Rainier St, Waterville, WA 98858.
Next meeting dates: Monday February 13th, Monday March 6th, Wednesday April 5th
For more information, please contact Aaron Rosenblum, VSP Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 426-5990.