Voluntary Stewardship



Washington State's Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) was created in 2011 to provide an alternative approach for counties to address Growth Management requirements for agricultural activities.

How it Works

The Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) administers funding for counties to implement the program. Counties then designate a work group to develop a watershed-scale plan that will:

  • Identify critical resource concerns.
  • Identify agricultural activities in the critical areas.
  • Create a plan for targeted outreach to assist landowners in developing farm plans that address agricultural impacts to critical areas on their property.
  • Identify and maintain economically viable agriculture while protecting and restoring critical areas
In October 2015, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) worked with the Kittitas County Conservation District to enlist our assistance with facilitation of the Watershed Group. We entered into an interlocal agreement with the County in November. The BOCC passed Resolution 2016-001 in January 2016 designating the Kittitas County Conservation District as the lead entity for the Voluntary Stewardship Program. The VSP Watershed Group was formed and the process of developing the required work plan began on the


What are Critical Areas?

There are five critical areas identified in Washington's GMA:

  • Wetlands
  • Frequently flooded areas
  • Critical aquifer recharge areas
  • Geologically hazardous areas
  • Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas

In Kittitas County, information about critical areas can be found on the County's website by clicking  here.


1990 – Washington Legislature passes Growth Management Act (GMA), which requires state and local governments to manage growth by identifying and protecting critical areas, designating urban growth areas, and preparing and implementing plans and regulations. While well-intentioned, implementation of GMA requirements meets with years of conflict and lawsuits.

2007 – In response to GMA conflicts, Washington Legislature charges the Ruckelshaus Center—a collaborative, problem-solving center—to examine the conflict between protecting agricultural land and protecting critical areas under GMA.

2010-11 – Based on recommendations of the Ruckelshaus Center, the legislature creates VSP at the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC). VSP represents a voluntary, incentive-based approach that offers counties an alternative for meeting GMA requirements related to protecting critical areas and agricultural lands. No new state funding was provided for VSP, and counties are not obligated to implement VSP until funding is provided.

2011-2012 – Kittitas County and 27 other counties across the state exercise the option to opt-in to VSP in stead of continuing to try to meet GMA requirements as written under existing law. The Kittitas Board of County Commissioners passed passed Ordinance 2011-012 on November 30, 2011

2013 – Washington State Legislature made State funds available for two pilot counties— Thurston and Chelan.