Columbia County VSP

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The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is an incentive‐based approach to protecting critical areas while promoting agriculture.

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is an optional, incentive‐based approach to protecting critical areas while promoting agriculture.

The goals of the VSP are to:

  • 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)

Those of us who live in Columbia County are well aware of the significant role water plays in our lives. From the Touchet and the Tucannon, to the Patit and Pataha, and the thousands of tributaries to those streams, every bit of our environment is shaped by water. The water is responsible for the abundant wheat crop, the rangeland, the forests, and the wildlife. It is vital that we manage our impacts on this water-based system to ensure that it will continue to enhance our county far into the future.

Science and technology have for years been applied to the environment, in order to protect those features that are so important, while allowing us to continue with our livelihoods, be it farming, ranching, mining or timber harvesting. Up until now, the management of our natural resources has been regulated by government at the state and federal levels, which often are too remote from the on-the-ground realities we face, and the one-size-fits-all approach is frequently unrealistic and/or unworkable. But, there is another way.

Columbia County has taken the positive approach of opting-in to the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP).   VSP is an optional, incentive-based method to protecting critical areas while promoting agriculture. The VSP is allowed under the Washington State Growth Management Act as an alternative to traditional approaches to critical areas protection.

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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


An innovative and Ag-friendly alternative, VSP provides a reasonable approach to balancing critical area protection and Ag viability objectives.

Washington Farm Bureau

Columbia County’s VSP is being developed by the Watershed Work Group.  The public is invited to attend.  Please see the meeting schedule under “News & Events.”