The Times 

Columbia County VSP Seeks Work Group Members

Work Group Votes to Submit 5-Year Report


January 28, 2021

COLUMBIA COUNTY—At its January 20 quarterly meeting, the Columbia County Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) workgroup unanimously voted to submit its 5-Year Report to the State Conservation Commission, asserting that work plan goals and benchmarks aimed toward the voluntary protection of critical areas have been met.

“By developing and implementing our own program, producers are freed from the historic one-size-fits-all regulatory approach to critical areas protection. Instead, the County and Conservation District work directly with local stakeholders to determine what conservation practices will be most impactful, specifically to Columbia County. That’s a pretty big deal,” said Columbia County Planning Manager Dena Martin.

The report, which was due five years after the receipt of funding, will be reviewed by the State Technical Panel and VSP Statewide Advisory Committee before the Conservation Commission’s Executive Director must decide to concur, or not, with the work group’s determination. If the Director does not concur, the workgroup will be required to develop an adaptive management plan.

With initial reporting requirements out of the way, the workgroup is actively seeking new members to aid in the continued implementation of the local program.

Following the receipt of funding in 2016, the workgroup spent three years developing the work plan approved by the State Conservation Commission in July of 2018. The last two years have been spent on program implementation, with the workgroup voting to focus on cost-share programs.

In 2019 the VSP partnered with the Columbia County Weed Board, providing funding that allowed an additional 4,500 acres to be sprayed in the existing successful starthistle eradication program. In 2020, the workgroup began soliciting individual cost-share project applications. Technical assistance is administered by the Columbia Conservation District staff, with expert consultants brought in as needed.

Moving forward, the workgroup will continue to review and approve cost-share project applications and technical assistance requests, develop and oversee community outreach and education projects, and advise on adaptive management such as revising benchmarks or determining new monitoring methods.

“With meetings held quarterly, the time commitment for workgroup members is minimal at this point. However, if we don’t have a workgroup, we don’t have a program,” Martin said.

To learn more about the Columbia County VSP, or to find out how you can get involved, visit online or call the Planning Department at (509) 520-3183 or the Conservation District at (509) 382-4273.


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