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Natural Resources Division

Manager: Jenn E. Johnson


Skagit County Voluntary Stewardship Program | Watershed Group

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) provides incentives to agricultural landowners who implement best management practices and natural resource enhancement on their property. The VSP is the alternative, non-regulatory approach to protecting Critical Areas in Skagit County while maintaining agricultural productivity. Instead of enacting further Critical Areas regulation for agricultural activities, the VSP allows landowners to develop management plans with the support of local experts and avoid a “one size fits all” approach to compliance.

Skagit County’s VSP Coordinator works with interested landowners to evaluate their needs and eligibility to connect them the right cost-share program. Potential projects could include:

  • Planting native trees and shrubs adjacent to waterways
  • Installing fencing to exclude livestock from waterways
  • Installing in-stream structures to provide habitat and reduce streambank erosion

These types of projects are generally implemented by partner organizations like Skagit Conservation District, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement, and more, and are all considered “voluntary stewardship.” Skagit County’s VSP coordinator acts as the point-person between landowner and technical support at these organizations to pair each landowner with a program tailored to their needs.

If you are interested in participating in the VSP, please contact the VSP Coordinator:

Rebecca Rising
VSP Coordinator

(360) 416-1444
Skagit County Public Works, Natural Resource Division

One of the programs VSP supports is Skagit Conservation District’s Cover Crop program, which provides grants to farmers interested in planting cover crops on their fields each fall. Cover crops are a great way to recycle nitrogen, improve soil organic matter and carbon sequestration, reduce erosion, improve water quality, and maintain living roots and the soil biotic community. If you are interested in learning more or starting an application, visit the Skagit Conservation District website.

VSP Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my property is eligible for voluntary stewardship programs?

The Voluntary Stewardship Program is focused on properties zoned as Agricultural-Natural Resource Lands (Ag-NRL) or Rural Resource-Natural Resource Land (RRc-NRL) with Critical Areas. Under Washington state’s Growth Management Act, there are five types of Critical Areas: Fish and Wildlife Conservation Areas, Wetlands, Frequently Flooded Areas, Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas, and Geologically Hazardous Areas. In general, agriculturally zoned properties with waterways or wet areas are good candidates for VSP projects. However, if your property does not meet these requirements, there may be other resources available. Please inquire with questions regarding eligibility.

What will enrolling in the VSP cost me?

There is no cost to landowners who choose to enroll in the VSP. In most cases, funding is available to cover the cost of projects through local grants. In some cases, the landowner may receive a payment for the project in the form of annual rent for the enrolled acres.

How is the VSP funded?

-The primary funder for the VSP is Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC). The VSP Coordinator uses these funds strategically while seeking out additional funds from state and local partners. Funding sources for specific projects vary based on the needs and eligibility of the property.

Will I be forced to install large buffers on my property if I enroll?

No, the VSP is a non-regulatory program. The VSP Coordinator does not have the authority to require landowners implement any measure on their property. The goal of this program is to assist landowners voluntary and avoid one-size-fits-all regulation from the state.

What if I am not an agricultural landowner but I want to participate in voluntary stewardship on my property?

There are programs and technical assistance available for anyone looking to manage their property using best management practices. Please reach out to the VSP Coordinator regardless of your current land use or property zoning.

History of the Voluntary Stewardship Program

On December 19, 2011, Skagit County enrolled in the State's Voluntary Stewardship Program (the VSP) for protection of critical areas in areas of agricultural activity. Statewide, 27 counties are now enrolled.

The VSP legislation, codified at RCW 36.70A.700-760, enables an enrolled county to protect and restore riparian streams and other critical areas on agricultural land through new voluntary programs and coordination of existing programs, instead of new regulation. It provides focus and direction for agricultural stewardship, measurable goals and benchmarks, and relies on local watershed groups to develop work plans for implementation.

To date, Skagit County has completed both the first two- and five-year reports meeting the Conservation Commission’s eligibility criteria. More information on the development of the VSP in Skagit County can be found on the Watershed Advisory Group page.  

For More Information on the Voluntary Stewardship Program:

Join the next Watershed Group meeting: Past Watershed Group Meeting Information:

Commissioners Hearing Room
1800 Continental Pl
Mount Vernon, WA

and online

The online meeting can be accessed here:
Teleconference / GoToMeeting
Call In Number: 1 (872) 240-3412
Meeting Access Code: 517 722 213


Rebecca Rising
VSP Coordinator
(360) 416-1444
Skagit County Public Works, Natural Resource Division