Voluntary Stewardship Program

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is an optional, incentive-based approach to protecting critical areas while promoting agriculture. The VSP is allowed under the Growth Management Act as an alternative to traditional approaches to critical areas protection, such as “no touch” buffers. Twenty eight counties have “opted in” to the VSP by nominating one or more watersheds in their county where the program would apply. Chelan County received funding to develop a VSP work plan from the Washington State Conservation Commission and the Technical Panel adopted the April 2017. 

The goals of the VSP program include:

  • Promote plans to protect and enhance critical areas 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.
  • Focus and maximize voluntary incentive programs to encourage good riparian and ecosystem stewardship as an alternative to historic approaches used to protect critical areas.
  • Leverage existing resources by relying upon existing work and plans in counties and local watersheds, as well as existing state and federal programs to the maximum extent practicable to achieve program goals.
  • Encourage and foster a spirit of cooperation and partnership among county, tribal, environmental, and agricultural interests to better assure program success.
  • Improve compliance with other laws designed to protect water quality and fish habitat.
  • Rely upon voluntary stewardship practices as the primary method of protecting critical areas and not require the cessation of agricultural activities (RCW 36.70A.700).

VSP Watershed Work Group:

Chelan County has opted in to the VSP, and has reached out to stakeholders to form a VSP Watershed Workgroup in order to develop amd guide the implementation of this Work Plan and to provide goals, measurable benchmarks, and incentives, leveraging existing watershed plans and other programs. As an alternative to the litgigious and costly approach of the past, the incentive based VSP balances the protection and enhancement of crticial area on agricultural lands while also promoting agricultural viability.