About VSP

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) creates a non-regulatory approach to meeting the goals of the state of Washington's Growth Management Act by protecting critical areas on agricultural lands.

VSP provides opportunities for landowners to avoid future regulation by implementing voluntary, site-specific practices that help to protect critical areas while also promoting agricultural viability.

Counties choose one of two options to meet GMA requirements for protecting critical areas where agricultural activities occur:

  1. Enforce regulations on agricultural landowners. Prior to 2011, this was the only option available to counties.
  2. Use the VSP approach to engage agricultural landowners with actions they can take voluntarily to protect critical areas. Twenty-seven of Washington's 39 counties are using VSP.  
VSP Fact Sheet

Benefits of Participating in VSP

Gain knowledge: Gain a better understanding of the critical areas on your land and how to improve operational efficiencies, see higher yields, and increase production.

VSP is flexible: Allows farmers and ranchers to manage in ways that meet their needs.

VSP Program is results-oriented: The VSP Program focuses on results rather than regulations. Proactively be a good steward of your land for generations to come.

Protection: Protect your farm from violations and regulation.

Opportunities: Participation in VSP potentially opens individual landowners up to cost share funding opportunities to implement projects.

The program is completely voluntary: A successful VSP supports a voluntary approach to land stewardship for all residents. Success is dependent upon landowner participation.

If you’re a farm landowner in a VSP county, the program can be a big help in your operation.

VSP is voluntary and non-regulatory. You can choose whether to do a stewardship plan for your farm.

If you choose to do a stewardship plan, you will balance protecting critical areas with keeping your agricultural operation economically viable.

Funding will be available to help you put in practices that protect critical areas, such as fences or improved pastures and paddocks.

You can help by participating in your county VSP work group – building the future of your county, your farm, and our environment.

VSP Policy Advisories

Learn about past VSP policy advisories.

Policy Advisories

Find a VSP county program near you!

If you live in one of the 27 counties that are enrolled in VSP, there may be opportunities for you to receive on-site, expert assistance with developing a Stewardship Plan for your property and providing cost-share funding for new or adjusted land management practices that protect critical areas. There also may be opportunities to get involved with your county’s VSP plan and progress.

Visit the VSP Directory to see if your county is involved in VSP.  You’ll find information about your county VSP work plan, progress reports, current projects, and links to VSP county websites and social media.

History of VSP 

1990 – Washington Legislature passes Growth Management Act (GMA), requiring state and local governments to manage growth by identifying and protecting critical areas, designating urban growth areas, and preparing and implementing plans and regulations. Implementation of GMA requirements was surrounded by conflict and lawsuits.

2006 - Initiative 933 addresses the taking of agricultural lands due to regulation. Fails by 60%.

2007 - State Supreme Court Case Swinomish v. Skagit Co. - Agriculture is not exempt from critical areas requirements of GMA. Counties must regulate agriculture in critical areas. In response to GMA conflicts, the Washington Legislature charges the Ruckelshaus Center— known for collaborative, problem-solving—to examine the conflict between protecting agricultural land and protecting critical areas under GMA.

2011 – Based on recommendations of the Ruckelshaus Center, the legislature creates the framework for Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) at the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC), offering a voluntary, incentive-based approach and alternative for counties to meet GMA requirements related to protecting critical areas and agricultural lands. No new state funding is provided for VSP, and counties are not obligated to implement VSP until funding is provided.

July - Dec. 2011 - 27 counties across the state opt-in to VSP instead of GMA requirements. County commissions and councils pass local ordinances.

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

2015 - State Legislature provides funding to all other counties who have opted-in for implementation of VSP. Counties accept funds, determining reporting dates.

2016-19 - County work groups are created. Countywide work plans are created and approved by the Technical Panel (TP) and SCC executive director. Implementation begins.

2020-21 - First five-year reports are due. TP and the SCC executive director review and approve all plans, showing counties are successfully on track with work plan goals and benchmarks. Implementation of work plans continues.

2023 - SSB 5353 is passed by state legislature and signed by Governor, allowing the option for 12 remaining WA counties to opt-in to VSP at any time in the future.

Opportunities to Get Involved

VSP Statewide Advisory Committee (SAC) and VSP Technical Panel (TP) work at the state-level to establish VSP policies, procedures, and review work plans and reports.