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Voluntary Stewardship Program

Community-Driven Solutions for Healthy Resources & Agriculture

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) is a collaborative process that helps our community ensure healthy landscapes and strong farms today and for the future. Through VSP, Benton County and our agricultural landowners are offered farm-friendly options for complying with state requirements to protect fragile and/or hazardous natural resources — referred to as “critical areas” — in places where agricultural activity is conducted.


Contact Tom Sexton (509-736-6000,

to learn about financial assistance opportunities available through VSP.

Non-Regulatory Approach

Rather than leading with regulations and enforcement, counties enrolled in VSP use financial incentives to voluntarily engage agricultural landowners with actions that protect critical areas. Benton County is one of 28 counties in the state that enrolled in the VSP process. 

Livestock fencing

Benton CD's Role in VSP

Benton Conservation District (BCD) is the lead entity to manage Benton County's VSP. As the lead entity, BCD is responsible for outreach, conservation practice documentation, and landowner assistance.

Instead of enacting further critical area regulations on agricultural lands, VSP provides an alternative approach to protecting critical areas by promoting, implementing, and evaluating voluntary measures while promoting agriculture in Benton County. Benton CD works with landowners to develop voluntary, site-specific stewardship plans to protect critical areas on agricultural lands while maintaining and enhancing the viability of agriculture.


What Are Critical Areas?

The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires all cities and counties in Washington to adopt regulations protecting “critical areas” in order to preserve the natural environment, wildlife habitats, and sources of fresh drinking water. 


The statute defines five types of critical areas — click on each one to learn more:


Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas


Frequently Flooded Areas

Geo hazard

Geologically Hazardous Areas



Salmon and priority habitat

Priority Habitat & Species

River Rapids

Want to Learn More About the Voluntary Stewardship Program?

VSP is managed at the state level by the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC). Visit their site for more information.

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