In 2011, Stevens County opted to participate in the State of Washington’s Voluntary Stewardship Program, or VSP. After a delay of several years due to a lack of approved funding, the VSP process began in Stevens County in early 2016. The VSP is an optional, incentive-based approach to protecting Critical Areas on lands where agriculture is practiced, and serves as an alternative to traditional regulatory methods. Critical areas include wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, frequently flooded areas, critical aquifer recharge areas, and areas of geological instability. In contrast to historic approaches to protecting these areas, the VSP prioritizes agricultural viability alongside environmental protection, and engages the local community in developing the planned actions. The program allows local stakeholders to write their own ‘Work Plan’ detailing a voluntary process to protect critical areas and maintain agricultural viability.
This past March, local agricultural and environmental stakeholders began meeting to develop the VSP Work Plan for Stevens County, with personnel from Stevens County Conservation District, WSU Extension, and Stevens County Land services serving as administrative and technical advisory staff.
Meetings are held monthly on the second Thursday of the month, and have thus far been located at several different venues in the county. Early on, the majority of meeting time was spent gaining an understanding of the VSP process and addressing questions and concerns of the public. As of the July meeting, a thirteen-member Voting Committee had been selected, and the group has begun to characterize the interactions between agricultural activities and critical areas that exist in Stevens County. Over the next few months, the group will continue to study those interactions, while also investigating the key impacts and obstacles related to agricultural viability in the county.
These are public meetings and we encourage you to participate. For meeting locations/times or any other VSP questions you may have, please contact the Stevens County VSP Coordinator, Adam Cares, at 509-680- 2149.
Our next meeting is scheduled from 6:00pm thru 8 p.m. on August 11 th at the Chewelah civic center 315 E. Clay Ave, Chewelah. The main parking lot is located behind the building, on E. Webster.
-Submitted by Stevens County Voluntary Stewardship Program