From Thurston County:
Thurston County’s Long Range Planning division is working on a new collaborative approach to promoting agricultural and environmental stewardship.
A NEW APPROACH
The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is an alternative approach for counties to protect and enhance BOTH critical areas and agriculture.
Instead of enacting further critical areas regulation for agricultural activities, the VSP allows the county to work closely with participants to develop voluntary, site-specific stewardship plans.
Thurston County conferred with tribes and stakeholders before designating the VSP Work Group to develop the Work Plan in the beginning of 2014.
WE ARE DEVELOPING THE PLAN NOW
The VSP Work Group includes a broad representation from agricultural, tribes, and environmental groups. The VSP Work Plan is in progress. We are:
Identifying where agricultural activities and critical areas overlap
Establishing baseline conditions using existing data
Developing practical metrics to measure progress
Planning for outreach and participation necessary to meet the protection and enhancement goals
Define what it actually means to protect and enhance the long-term viability of agriculture in Thurston County.
Determine how to move forward with the limited data available.
Find funding to implement the work plan, including outreach and monitoring, and for Thurston Conservation District to provide technical assistance to agricultural operators for the development of site-specific stewardship plans.
Submit the proposed Work Plan to the Washington State Conservation Commission (anticipated to be by the end of 2015).
CURRENT VSP WORK GROUP PARTICIPANTS
Individuals from the agricultural community
Washington State Conservation Commission
Washington State Department of Ecology
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington State University Extension
Washington State Department of Agriculture
Center for Natural Lands Management
Washington State Farm Bureau
Washington State Association of Counties
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Thurston Conservation District
Thurston Regional Planning Council
The Chehalis Tribe