A symposium held last fortnight focused on the health of the region’s signature waterway has heard a rallying call to residents from the region’s peak conservation group. Speakers at the Nature Conservation Margaret River Region forum said everyday residents of Margaret River had to become “stewards” for the river itself in the face of ever-increasing environmental risks. The forum heard veteran landcare expert Genevieve Hanran-Smith and Murdoch University senior research fellow Dr Stephen Beatty speak on the 20 years since the Margaret River Action Plan was first developed. Ms Hanran-Smith, who authored the plan as part of her long-term work with the group and its ancestral Cape-to-Cape Catchments Group, said sections of the river were “clearly unloved” and faced threats amid a 50 per cent decline in river flows. The river also contained pockets the group previously sough to have recognised by the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River as “wildness zones” of pristine native vegetation which also needed protecting. About 80 attendees also heard from Dr Beatty, who helped design local fish ways and has undertaken research into the river’s threatened fish species and lampreys. He said the Margaret River had an incredible diversity of fish, crayfish and aquatic life, many of them threatened species unique to the South West. Nature Conservation general manager Drew McKenzie said the night highlighted the excellent work already undertaken on the river, including recently as part of the Wooditjup Bilya Protection Strategy, also authored by Ms Hanran-Smith. “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’s work was also bolstered this week by the appointment of volunteer advisor Peter Adamson to its board. An avid outdoorsman, Mr Adamson has a background in working with big organisations, including Aboriginal groups in the Kimberley and the World Health Organisation. “I’ve seen many significant changes in the Margaret River region – changes that can never be undone, are increasing in momentum and scope year by year, and transforming what was once a very unique ecosystem,” he said. “Nature Conservation can influence those changes to ensure a balance.” The conservation group was making plans to address identified challenges, seeking funding and more community support to tackle “the challenges and concerns raised in the forum”. Visit natureconservation.org.au to get involved.