From the eastern slopes of the Darling Scarp the Shire of York extends westwards across the Avon River and its associated drainage and beyond to the western edges of the Yilgarn Plateau.
It was once endowed with abundant sources of fresh water and a rich variety of ecosystems. European settlement began as early as the 1830’s and today little remains of its natural vegetation except in the Wandoo National Park in the west. Loss of habitat results not only in loss of flora and fauna, including the invertebrates and soil fauna, but also in the degradation of water quality.
Historically Western Australian governments had made little effort to plan and manage the scale of land clearance and it was not until the late twentieth century that the Department of Conservation and Land Management was created and promptly adopted five relatively small areas of remnant bush for conservation in the shire. Sadly this did not include the Avon River and its riparian vegetation.
In 1990 local townsfolk came together to lobby the Western Australian government to take responsibility for the Avon River. Thus was born the River Conservation Society Inc. (R.C.S.). At the same time the Society began a careful survey of all aspects of river management and began the process of fencing out exotic species from the Avon River and its tributaries.
Work began on restoring the river banks and establishing a revegetation strip 30 metres wide on both banks for the entire length of the Avon River within the shire. This revegetation ‘superhighway’ is linked by winter streams to the granite and gravel hilltops unsuitable for cultivation. This strategy of revegetating the waterways was adopted by the then Avon River Management Authority and later by other shires.
In connection with revegetation the society has also undertaken the recording of levels of airspace above bushes and taller trees to determine favoured levels used by insect and bat species endemic to the region.
The management of the river itself is of major concern. The society persuaded the Waterways Commission to excavate several of the silted up permanent pools on the Avon, including Gwambygine Pool south of York. In 1996 – 1998 the society carried out the first ever biological survey of an inland permanent pool. This pool has become the baseline against which the condition of other pools are measured for depth, water quality and aquatic flora and fauna.
The R.C.S. has created a specialist library covering revegetation subjects as they relate to the Shire of York. The R.C.S. has also previously undertaken a series of flora surveys representative of the differing ecosystems within the shire. Using these resources allows the R.C.S. to select species that match the ecosystem being revegetated. Flora surveys are continuing as we build and improve our local Herbarium.
The R.C.S. is currently actively engaged in a revegetation project along the East and West banks of the Avon River within the York townsite. Fire mitigation works have recently been undertaken in this area allowing the R.C.S. cleared space for revegetation with local flora that will reduce fire intensity. The first areas to be planted out with seedlings will be between the Swing Bridge and One Mile Pool. This first step has been sponsored by The Shire of York, Wheatbelt N.R.M. and Avon Waste.
The R.C.S. cares for ten of the crown reserves located within the Shire of York. The intention is to preserve and restore where possible, these last remnants of bush, for future generations to enjoy and to prevent them being used for purposes that will degrade or destroy them.