The River Conservation Society was founded in March 1990 in York, Western Australia, in response to increasing public concern over the degradation of the riparian environment of the Avon River. Threats to the river and its riparian zones from uncontrolled grazing of stock led to degradation of natural vegetation and the erosion of embankments and surrounding areas. Other threats to the Avon River’s unique and diverse environment such as increasing water nutrient levels, frequent occurrence of algal blooms, rising salinity, rising acidity levels and a threatened biological ecology has given cause for concern and highlighted the need for community and scientific awareness of the Avon River ecology.
The River Conservation Society was among the first to draw attention to these serious environmental problems affecting the Avon River system. The Society pioneered a fencing program to assist landowners whose properties abut the river, to fence along waterways and to repair old or damaged fences. Landowners are encouraged to protect the environment by excluding stock from waterways, thereby assisting in the regeneration of natural flora within the riparian zones.
Surveys conducted by the Society in the past have included:
- Scientific biological surveys of Avon River pool systems such as Gwambygine Pool near York, Western Australia.
- Research into the oblong turtle (Chelodina colliei ) populations and aquatic fauna along the Avon River.
- Hydrology surveys to monitor salinity and acidity levels on reserves within this region.
In 1997, 1999 and 2011 the Society successfully obtained assistance from the Water and Rivers Commission to excavate sand sediment encroaching into Gwambygine Pool due to erosion of the upper riverine and riparian zones. In 2011 sand sediment due to erosion was also removed from Katrine Pool downstream from Northam and Reserve Pool near Beverley, both wheatbelt towns located in Western Australia.
The York Regional Herbarium of local flora was successfully established by the Society in 1993 by a dedicated group of volunteers with the assistance of Greening Western Australia and the Western Australian Herbarium. The York Regional Herbarium specimens are housed at the historic Sandalwood Yards on the corner of Avon Terrace and Ford Street, York, Western Australia.
The River Conservation Society sees all river systems as of high ecological value and important wildlife corridors that provide habitat for a wide range of water and land birds, wallabies, kangaroos, possums, turtles, water rats and invertebrates. The Society encourages a scientific understanding of the bioecology of riverine systems and is active in fostering relations with established scientific groups, government organizations, universities and the wider community.
The Society’s goals in promoting the preservation of the riverine environment are complimented by broader objectives in encouraging community interest in the bioecology, geology and landforms of the region and to represent these interests to local authorities and government departments
Currently the R.C.S. is undertaking the following:
- Research into the wild population of the Rakali or water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster ) along the Avon River environs.
- Field collection and data recording of local flora and the continued development of the York Regional Herbarium.
- The society is continually active in seeking funding for a continuing program of flora and fauna surveys in the region.