Wagoner voluntary land-stewardship bill moves to House

Senate unanimously approves bill to expand successful program to additional counties

On Thursday, the Senate unanimously approved legislation from Sen. Keith Wagoner that would clear the way for all 39 Washington counties to participate in the state’s successful Voluntary Stewardship Program.

“I am reminded of the movie Splash, where one of my favorite comedians, John Candy, says, ‘when something works for me, I stick with it’,” said Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley. “Well, the Voluntary Stewardship Program works, and we need to stick with it.

“It’s been working for 27 counties, but unfortunately there was a sign-up-by date, and counties that did not join were locked out. This bill opens the program up to those counties that initially missed out.”

The Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) offers an alternative approach for protecting critical areas on lands where agricultural uses exist. It is limited to 27 of Washington’s 39 counties, but under Wagoner’s proposal, Senate Bill 5353, the 2012 deadline in state law for counties to take part in the VSP would be removed, opening up the program statewide. His measure would also allow any counties joining the program to access funding for riparian projects.

“We’ve seen great successes with this approach, with cooperation between conservation districts, property-owners, environmental groups and tribes,” said Wagoner. “I invite you to see what we have done in my district through the VSP. You will see our riparian areas, planted voluntarily and with the help of conservation districts. Our tributaries are lush, green and protected. The rest of the state deserves a chance to use this method.”

SB 5353 now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.