Foster Creek Conservation District
Foster Creek Conservation District

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Voluntary Stewardship Program?


The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) provides a non-regulatory, incentive-based method of critical area protection on lands that intersect agricultural activities. VSP is an alternative to the traditional method to protect critical areas, which is to enforce regulations adopted under Critical Area Ordinances of the Growth Management Act.


The primary goals of the VSP in Douglas County are:


  • Promote conservation activities that protect and enhance critical areas, while maintaining and improving the long-term viability of agriculture;


  • Focus and maximize voluntary incentive programs to encourage good land stewardship;


  • Rely on voluntary conservation activities as the primary method of protecting critical areas. VSP will not require the cessation of agricultural activities or the use of regulations.


What are Critical Areas?


Critical areas are specifically defined by the Growth Management Act. The five critical areas the GMA identifies are:

(1) fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas (2) wetlands (3) geologically hazardous areas (4) frequently flooded areas and (5) areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water.


Are there critical areas on my land?


Critical areas are designated by the county, and each critical area has unique characteristics that are used for identification. Maps are a useful tool to help identify where critical areas occur, however, presence of critical areas is determined on an individual site basis.


To see if you have critical areas on your land, click the link below for the Critical Areas Web Map, which allows you to zoom in on your operation and see for yourself!

What is the difference between Critical Area Ordinance & VSP? 

What happens if VSP fails in Douglas County?

Failure of the VSP work plan will trigger the regulatory approach described above to ensure critical area protection for areas with agricultural activities occurring.                                  This would subject Douglas County producers to new land use regulations!


How could VSP fail in Douglas County?

The VSP work plan for Douglas County bases critical area protection on the amount of conservation activities that are implemented across the county and their effects on the watershed as a whole. This means that the implementation of conservation activities that also enhance your agricultural viability is all that is needed to make VSP succeed! VSP in Douglas County could fail if producers do not continue to implement conservation activities that protect and/or enhance critical areas, or the implementation of activities is not communicated and accounted for.


Who is eligible to participate?

All Douglas County producers can participate in VSP, regardless of whether or not critical areas occur directly on the operation's land. 


How do I benefit from participating in VSP?

  • Participating in VSP contributes to its success, which means less regulatory burden on you and all other Douglas County producers.
  • FREE technical assistance is available to you to help plan and implement conservation activities
  • Cost-share funding is available to help offset any potential risk of implementing conservation activities.
  • VSP only encourages the implementation of conservation activities that also are intended to benefit your agricultural viability.


How can I participate in VSP?


There are four different types of VSP participation:

  • Complete a VSP Producer Survey (Survey Link)
  • Plan for conservation activity implementation
  • Implement conservation activities
  • Attend educational events & Work Group meetings when able

Please download and review the Douglas County VSP Producer's Handbook for everything you need to know about participating in VSP.


How does VSP protect my privacy?

All VSP reporting is done at the watershed scale, not the individual parcel scale. This means that no personally identifiable information is necessary to implement VSP.


What is considered an agricultural activity?

Agricultural activities is defined as: “agricultural uses and practices including, but not limited to: producing, breeding, or increasing agricultural products; rotating and changing agricultural crops; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie fallow in which it is plowed and tilled but left unseeded; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie dormant as a result of adverse agricultural market conditions; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie dormant because the land is enrolled in a local, state, or federal conservation program, or the land is subject to a conservation easement; conducting agricultural operations; maintaining, repairing, and replacing agricultural equipment; maintaining, repairing, and replacing agricultural facilities, provided that the replacement facility is no closer to the shoreline than the original facility; and maintaining agricultural lands under production or cultivation.”

RCW 90.58.065(2)(a).


What is meant by agricultural viability?

Agricultural viability can be defined as the ability of a farmer or group of farmers to productively farm on a given piece of land or in a specific area; maintain and enhance an economically viable farm business and/or achieve other non-economic goals; keep the land in agriculture long-term; and steward the land so it will remain productive. 


What is a conservation activity?

Conservation activities are all stewardship actions being implemented by Douglas County producers that protect, preserve, and/or enhance natural resources. These include NRCS Conservation Practices, and all other stewardship actions.

Examples of conservation activities include, but are not limited to: conservation cover, conservation tillage (reduced-till and no-till), Global G.A.P IFA Fruit and Vegetables Standard Certificate, wildlife habitat management, pollinator habitat, irrigation water management, nutrient management, prescribed grazing, riparian buffers, field buffers, integrated pest management (IPM), and organic certification.


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Foster Creek Conservation District 203 S Rainier Waterville, WA 98858 509-888-6372 © Foster Creek CD