Conservation Program on Agricultural Lands (CPAL)

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What is CPAL?

The Conservation Program on Agricultural Lands (CPAL) is a part of the Whatcom County Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), codified within Article 8 of County Code Title 16.16.

The CPAL program gives farmers and ranchers (including hobby farmers) an alternative to the standard regulations of the CAO, and can potentially allow for "ongoing agricultural" activities within certain critical areas and associated buffers if Best Management Practices (BMPs) are implemented to protect water quality; as defined within Article 9 of County Code Title 16.16.

Does my Farm/Ranch Qualify for CPAL?

  1. Do you have a critical area on your property (e.g. stream, wetland, frequently flooded area, etc.), or do you have untreated water leaving your farm or ranch?
  2. Do agricultural activities presently occur and/or have occurred on your farm during the past five years? (This meets the current definition of “ongoing agriculture”)

If you answered YES to both of these questions, then you are eligible to participate in CPAL. The next step is to develop and submit a Conservation Farm Plan.

What is a Conservation Farm Plan?

A Conservation Farm Plan consists of a review of current agricultural operations, any operational constraints, and identifies opportunities to prevent or reduce pollution entering surface water from agricultural activities through implementation of Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) best management practices (BMPs)

There are three types of Conservation Farm Plans: 


What Type of Conservation Farm Plan do I Need?


Type 1 Farm Plan - Standard

Type 2 Farm Plan - Custom

  • For Farms/Ranches that:
    • Exceed 1 animal unit per acre of grazeable pasture and/or;
    •  Include orchards, vineyards, row crops, and drainage improvement districts.
  • Plan Contents:
    • Custom plan identifying farm operation constraints and opportunities to prevent or reduce pollution from agricultural activities based on best available science.
  • Can be developed by:

Type 3 Farm Plan - Custom - WA State Regulated Operation

  • For Farms/Ranches that are regulated by state and federal governments. These include dairies and animal feeding operations/concentrated animal feeding operations (AFO/CAFOs).These operations do not need the submittal of a farm plan as they are already regulated. Whatcom County only requires confirmation that a nutrient management plan is being followed.

How Do I Apply/Participate?

  1. Complete your applicable Conservation Farm Plan with NRCS Best Management Practices.
  2. Submit Conservation Farm Plan to [email protected].
  3. WCPDS will review application and send confirmation of approval, conditional approval, or denial of Farm Plan. 
  4. If approved:
    1. Complete the Best Management Practices within your Action Plan.
    2. Submit biennial monitoring report to WCPDS.