The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Ken Graham
The Times 

Columbia County to Implement Voluntary Stewardship Program

Public Meeting will be held March 22 to present plans and gather feedback

 

March 15, 2018



DAYTON – A group, including farmers, wildlife officials and local planning officials, has been meeting for two years to develop a new plan to meet state requirements for a Voluntary Stewardship Program in Columbia County. The program would supplant the current requirements for agricultural land in the county to follow the Washington State Growth Management Act.

Don Brigham, a consultant in Clarkston, is the project coordinator and facilitator for the program. He said the new VSP will allow farmers and agricultural landowners to continue the practices they’ve been following to mitigate negative impacts to critical areas such as wetlands wildlife habitats.

“It’s the difference between the carrot and the stick,” he said. “The GMA is the stick. The VSP is the carrot approach. The VSP allows farmers to continue good practices they’ve been following for the last couple of generations.”

Brigham says the GMA mandates buffer areas between ag land and critical areas, while the VSP will offer incentives to farmers to continue their own best practices to farm in an environmentally friendly way. The VSP is allowed under the GMA as an alternative to traditional approaches to critical areas protection.

According to Brigham, most counties in eastern Washington are either in the process of developing VSP programs or have already implemented them. Walla Walla County implemented its VSP program last year.

The Columbia County VSP committee will hold a public meeting to present its draft Work Plan to the public on Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m. in the Delany Room at Dayton Memorial Library, located at 111 S. 3rd St.

The goal of the meeting is to garner public input and feedback prior to submitting the Work Plan to the state tech panel in May. A copy of the draft plan is available for review online at columbiacountyvsp.com under the “documents” tab.

Brigham said the group hopes to have the new VSP program approved and implemented by this summer.

 

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