Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP)

VSP Administrators

What is the Voluntary Stewardship Program?

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) offers counties and agricultural landowners farm-friendly options for protecting fragile and/or hazardous natural resources — referred to as “critical areas” — in places where agricultural activity is conducted.

Rather than leading with regulations and enforcement, counties enrolled in VSP use financial incentives to voluntarily engage agricultural landowners with actions that protect critical areas.  

What are critical areas?

  1. Wetlands
  2. Frequently flooded areas
  3. Aquifer recharge areas
  4. Geologically hazardous areas
  5. Fish and wildlife habitats
VSP volunteers
Volunteers help implement their county VSP plan by planting vegetation along West Foster Creek. Photo courtesy of Foster Creek Conservation District.

Why VSP matters

Washington is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. Without careful planning, this increase in people and development could diminish our critical areas and farmland.  

Our state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that counties develop and follow plans to preserve local critical areas and farmland. This includes ensuring that critical areas are protected or enhanced in places where agricultural activity is conducted.  

Counties choose one of two options to meet GMA requirements for protecting critical areas where agricultural activities occur:

  1. Enforce regulations on agricultural landowners. Prior to 2011, this was the only option available to counties.
  2. Use the VSP approach to engage agricultural landowners with actions they can take voluntarily to protect critical areas. Twenty-seven of our 39 counties are using VSP.  

More information

·      VSP Fact Sheet

·      Growth Management Act

Get involved

If you live in one of the 27 counties that are enrolled in VSP, there may be opportunities for you to receive on-site, expert assistance with developing a Stewardship Plan for your property and paying for new or adjusted land management practices that protect critical areas. There also maybe opportunities to get involved with your county’s VSP plan and progress.

Visit the VSP Directory to see if your county is using VSP. Here you’ll find information about your county VSP work plan and progress reports. Visit your local county VSP website or contact your local VSP administrator to learn more about opportunities to get involved.

Meetings and materials from the VSP Statewide Advisory Committee (SAC) and VSP Technical Panel (TP) are available to you in the links provided below. These groups work at the state-level to establish VSP policies, procedures, and review work plans and reports.

VSP Statewide Advisory Committee (SAC) Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Advises the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) and other agencies involved in the development and operation of the VSP.
  • Works with SCC executive director and VSP work groups to revise draft work plans that are rejected.
  • Statutorily designated members include two representatives each from environmental interests, agriculture, and counties, and two tribal representatives are invited to participate.
  • View a list of Statewide Advisory Committee members
  • VSP SAC Meetings

VSP Technical Panel (TP) Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Review draft work plans submitted by the VSP Workgroup and makes recommendations to State Conservation Commission (SCC) Executive Director on whether to approve or reject the plan;
  • Members represent directors (or director-designees) of the Washington Departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Agriculture, and the SCC.
  • View list of current VSP TP members
  • VSP Technical Panel Meetings

Voluntary Stewardship Team

Bill Eller
Voluntary Stewardship Program Coordinator