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Local residents must become stewards for the Margaret River as it faces threats including weeds, recreational access, less flow and under-pressure wildlife, says the region’s peak environment and conservation group.

Nature Conservation Margaret River Region is running a series of sundowner evenings focussing on different environmental issues facing the region, with the latest one held last week in front of more than 80 people at the Margaret River District Club looking at the health of the Margaret River. It discussed 20 years since the Margaret River Action Plan was developed, the major wins and future challenges.

Guest speakers included Dr Stephen Beatty, a senior research fellow at Murdoch University who helped design local fish ways and has done extensive research into threatened fish species and lampreys in the river. He said the Margaret River was special because it has an incredible diversity of fish, crayfish and aquatic life, many of them threatened species which are endemic to the South-West and found nowhere else on Earth.

Genevieve Hanran-Smith, who authored the original Margaret River Action Plan two decades ago and co-authored the Wooditjup Bilya Protection Strategy, told the crowd there are still areas of near-pristine environment along the river. But other areas are facing many threats and are “clearly unloved”, while the river’s stream flow has declined by more than 50 per cent on historical data.

Nature Conservation general manager Drew McKenzie said the night highlighted some of the big wins for the river, including “more than 50km of foreshore fenced to prevent stock access, priority revegetation, the two fish ways to help fish and lamprey migration, significantly improved dairy effluent and stormwater management, water recycling to reduce pumping from the river, and the prevention – to the best or our knowledge – of feral goldfish establishing in the river”.

“The night also put the spotlight on issues such as increased pressure on riparian vegetation from environmental weeds, recreational access and the continued impact of ferals on our endangered aquatic species,” he said.

“There was an important call to action to understand our river’s values and threats. And to make sure that our actions improve the health of the river. We are so fortunate to live alongside the Wooditjup Bilya, but that comes with a responsibility to act as stewards and ensure we are a positive influence.”

Nature Conservation is now exploring ideas and funding opportunities to follow up on the challenges and concerns raised in the forum. You can help by becoming a Nature Conservation member, learning more about the Margaret River and its wildlife, joining volunteer planting days and ensuring your garden isn’t a source of weeds for the foreshore.

Photo: Genevieve Hanran-Smith, Drew McKenzie and Stephen Beatty, who all spoke during Nature Conservation’s latest sundowner which looked at the health of the Margaret River.