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. Franklin 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 provides an alternative approach to protecting critical areas by enacting voluntary measures while promoting agriculture in Franklin County. The VSP allows landowners to develop voluntary, site-specific stewardship plans to protect critical areas on agricultural lands while maintaining and enhancing the viability of agriculture.

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:
    • Protect and enhance critical areas where agricultural activities are conducted
    • Maintain and improve the long‐term viability of agriculture
    • 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 Franklin 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.

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

Timeline and Proccess

View the VSP Timeline

VSP Process Flowchart

County Opts In
  • Funding is provided
  • Form Local VSP Work Group
Develop Work Plan
  • VSP Work Group develops Work Plan
  • Work Plan identifies critical areas and agricultural activities
  • Work Plan includes measurable benchmarks for program
State Review
  • Work Plan reviewed by the State VSP Technical Panel
  • Upon approval, sent to VSP Work Group for implementation
VSP Implmentation
  • VSP Work Group implements Work Plan
  • Focused outreach conducted with landowners to develop farm plans protecting critical areas
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

Email Updates

Join the VSP interested parties email list by contacting:
Heather Wendt
Franklin Conservation District