Voluntary Stewardship Program
Under the Ruckelshaus Bill, the Board of County Commissioners must either elect to comply with the requirements of RCW 36.70A.060 and within two years review the Critical Areas regulations, and adopt critical area regulations providing such protection for such areas as is necessary in areas used for agricultural activities, or opt-into a Voluntary Stewardship Program.
Under the stewardship program, adequate funding must be provided by the state. A county opting-into the program must designate which watersheds will be covered under the program and identify potential priority watersheds for consideration by a state committee that will be established to administer the program. Once funded, a requirement of the program is to designate and establish a group or committee to administer the program locally. The committee will work with farmers choosing to adopt a Voluntary Stewardship Program tailored to the needs of the farming community that will provide the necessary protection of critical areas where agricultural activities take place.
This program will be in lieu of adoption of additional regulations. If there is not adequate funding provided by the state, or if the local committee does not make adequate progress in establishing the stewardship program, the County will be required to adopt regulations for the protection of critical areas as related to agricultural activities within the timelines as prescribed within the legislation.
As prescribed by the legislation, the County will consult with the appropriate stakeholders, including environmental groups, the Tribes, and the Farm Bureau. It will conduct an open house and at least one public hearing to consider whether or not to opt-into the program or to adopt such regulations as are necessary for the protection of critical areas associated with agricultural activities.