How to Participate in the Conservation Program on Agricultural Lands (CPAL)

  • Do you have critical areas and/or their buffers on your farm, or do you have untreated water leaving your property that has been polluted by your agricultural activities?
  • Do agricultural activities presently occur and 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 steps require submittal and approval of a conservation farm plan. The following table lists who may prepare each type of plan:

Who May Prepare                Type 1* Operations Type 2 and 3 Operations
The farm operator  
Whatcom County Planning and Development Services X
A Qualified Consultant  
A Watershed Improvement District (for a farm or ranch that is within its boundaries) X  
The Whatcom Conservation District X X
A Planning Advisor (certified by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service) X X

*See our Conservation Farm Plans page for information on Type 1, 2, and 3 plans.

The Whatcom Conservation District   is a non-regulatory agency that offers FREE farm planning services. You can contact them at 360-526-2381.

If the farm plan is prepared by any entity other than the Whatcom Conservation District, then Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS) will conduct a site visit prior to plan approval in order to assess critical areas.

If you choose to prepare the Type 1 farm plan yourself as the farm operator, please complete the Standard Conservation Farm Plan Workbook (PDF) and create a map.  An Example Standard Conservation Farm Plan Workbook (PDF) is available for reference.

Conservation farm plans are to be submitted to Whatcom County PDS for review and approval. There is no fee for reviewing conservation farm plans.

Implementation and Monitoring
After receiving approval of your conservation farm plan, you must complete the required action items listed in your plan and notify Whatcom County that those actions have been completed. The county monitors plans every two years to ensure their success. For convenience, landowners are allowed to complete a self-assessment and submit the required report and photos to PDS. County staff will never make unscheduled visits onto a property.

Questions? Contact Whatcom County PDS at 360-778-5900 or email.

Available Resources