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Voluntary Stewardship Program

Background on VSP

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. Implementation of GMA requirements meets with years of conflict and lawsuits.

2006 – State Supreme Court in the case of Swinomish v. Skagit County declares agricultural lands are not exempt from critical area protection requirements.

2007 – In response to GMA conflicts, Washington Legislature charges Ruckelshaus Center – a collaborative, problem-solving center – to examine the conflict between protecting agricultural lands 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 providing for VSP, and counties are not obligated to implement it until funding is made available.

2012 – Counties given choice to opt-in to VSP or continue to meet GMA requirements as written under existing law. Twenty-eight of 39 counties opt-in to VSP.

2013 – State funds made available for two pilot counties – Thurston and Chelan – to begin VSP planning process.

2015 – State provides funding for 26 remaining VSP counties to begin planning process.

What are critical areas?

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

1.) Wetlands

2.) Frequently flooded areas

3.) Critical aquifer recharge areas

4.) Geologically hazardous areas

5.) Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas (emphasis on anadromous fish)


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