Volunteer Stewardship Program

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is a non-regulatory approach for complying with state requirements to protect critical areas (Revised Code of Washington [RCW] 36.70A.030) on agricultural lands. Adams County is one of the 28 counties across the state that opted to participate in the VSP process.

Instead of enacting further critical areas regulations on agricultural lands, the VSP is a new approach approved and funded by the state legislature that can change the nature of current critical areas regulation within Adams County’s agricultural areas by allowing critical areas to be watershed-based, using a collaborative stewardship planning process that relies on incentive-based practices for protecting critical areas, promoting viable agriculture, and encouraging cooperation among diverse stakeholders.

There are five types of critical areas:

  1. Wetlands
  2. Critical aquifer recharge areas
  3. Frequently flooded areas
  4. Geologically hazardous areas
  5. Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas

For more specific information on each type of critical area, see the FAQs section.

Goals of the VSP

The VSP includes the following goals (RCW 36.70A.700):

  • Promote plans that:
    1. Protect and enhance critical areas where agricultural activities are conducted
    2. Maintain and improve the long-term viability of agriculture
    3. Reduce the conversion of farmland to other uses
  • Use voluntary incentive programs to encourage good riparian and ecosystem stewardship as an alternative to historic approaches used to protect critical areas
  • Use existing resources and programs (local, county, state, and federal) to 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 on voluntary stewardship actions as the primary method of protecting critical areas and not require the cessation of agricultural activities

VSP Work Group

A VSP Work Group, which includes agriculture, environmental, and other stakeholders, has been formed to develop the VSP Work Plan for Adams County. The VSP Work Group will be meeting regularly throughout the next 1 to 2 years to develop a VSP Work Plan for the County. The Work Group will also oversee Work Plan implementation. See RCW 36.70A.720 for a complete list of duties of the Work Group and requirements for the VSP Work Plan.

Adams County is seeking additional volunteers to serve on the VSP Work Group.  If you are interested in being part of the Adams County VSP Work Group please fill out the Work Group Application Form and contact: Loren Wiltse, Adams County Building and Planning Director, lorenw@co.adams.wa.us, (509) 488-9441.

See News and Events for the Work Group’s meetings schedule.

Timeline and Process

VSP Timeline

VSP Process Flowchart

 County Opts In
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 Develop Work Plan
  • VSP Work Group develops Work Plan
  • Work Plan identifies critical areas and agricultural activities
  • Work Plan includes measurable benchmarks for program
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 State Review
  • Work Plan reviewed by the State VSP Technical Panel
  • Upon approval, sent to VSP Work Group for implementation
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 VSP Implmentation
  • VSP Work Group implements Work Plan
  • Focused outreach conducted with landowners to develop farm plans protecting critical areas
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 Five-Year Status Reports
  • VSP Work Group must report on progress every 5 years
  • Must show progress on benchmarks or implement adaptive management approaches

Additional VSP Resources

Washington State Conservation Commission
Growth Management Act RCW 36.70A
VSP RCW 36.70A.705

Email Updates

Join the VSP interested parties email list by contacting:
Nora Schlenker
Anchor QEA
nschlenker@anchorqea.com