People for Nature is a Nature Conservation program that seeks to raise awareness and understanding of the value of nature and the myriad ways it supports and enriches people’s lives. The longer-term aim of this program is to inspire people to develop relationships with nature in which each party reinforces and sustains the other.
People for Nature is both a philosophical tenet that underpins every aspect of Nature Conservation’s work and a specific program to encourage greater engagement with and enjoyment of nature. This is achieved by regular communication with a diverse supporter base and a program of events held throughout the year in the Margaret River region.
Typically, these events are linked to important dates in the environmental calendar such as World Environmental Day, National Tree Day and Threatened Species Day. Similarly the annual ‘Margaret River Bioblitz’ and various citizen science events, provides other opportunities to experience the rich benefits of interacting with nature.
Nature Conservation intends to further expand the scope of its ‘People for Nature’ engagement activities through partnerships and co-sponsorship arrangements with like-minded businesses and other organisations. There is exciting potential to further develop links between the environment, arts bodies and other special interest groups in the Margaret River region.
The Margaret River is one of the healthiest rivers in an urban and agricultural setting in the south west of WA. The river system maintains good water quality, healthy fringing vegetation and unique aquatic fauna.
Environmental challenges are posed by continued population growth and rising recreational demands. Invasive introduced species also threaten the health and resilience of the river system as do diminishing stream flows associated with climate change.
Since 2003 Nature Conservation has worked collaboratively with stakeholders to protect and enhance the health of the river system and the important ecological corridor it provides through the regional landscape.
The river foreshore has been fenced to restrict grazing and its resilience further improved by coordinated weed control programs. Two fish ladders have been constructed to re-establish upstream migration of native fish and lamprey. A rain garden built on the edge of town captures stormwater preventing nutrients and sediments from reaching the river.
Nature Conservation works closely with government agencies and researchers to protect and better understand the species and communities of the river system. It also continues its efforts to raise community awareness of the special ecological and cultural values of the river.
The Margaret River region coastline is deservedly famous for its outstanding natural beauty. The long beaches, sheltered bays, good fishing, numerous surf breaks and dramatic coastal cliffs provide a broad range of recreational opportunities highly valued by both visitors and locals.
The western shores of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge supports a broad range of habitats and a rich diversity of marine flora as well as both tropical and temperate marine fauna due to the warming influence of the Leeuwin Current.
Rapidly increasing use of the coast creates significant pressures on and many challenges to the natural environment. Nature Conservation is one of several organisations working collaboratively to ensure the region’s coastal, marine and estuarine ecosystems are managed according to the best integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) practices available.
In addition to the challenge of sustainably managing ever-increasing visitation numbers, the coastal region also faces other threats associated with climate change such as rising sea levels, increased storm surges and a decline of climate-sensitive species. Erosion related to unmanaged access and weed-infestation are persistent problems.
With its partners Nature Conservation supports established volunteer coastcare groups by providing funding and other resources to assist with a range of coastal restoration projects.
Environmental weeds are a significant threat to the unique biodiversity of the Margaret River region. Introduced plant species flourish in the region’s high rainfall environment and compete with native plants for space, nutrients and sunlight.
Weeds can also change the structure and composition of bushland used by native animals and contribute to habitat degradation. They detract from the unique natural beauty of the region as evident at any arum lily-infested area.
Nature Conservation and its partners have developed a regional environment weed strategy that focuses and coordinates the efforts of the various agencies responsible for weed control in the region. This focuses on areas of high biodiversity and scenic significance within the region.
A coordinating committee, chaired by Nature Conservation, meets regularly to ensure weed control strategies covering both public and private land are sustained.
Private landowners in the region are encouraged to be part of this program through communication and other community engagement strategies.
Climate change is predicted to result in the threat from weeds increasing. Native species stressed by climate change will become more susceptible to destruction or displacement by weeds. As a result, ecosystems will change significantly and increasingly be composed of just weeds and vigorous native species.
Nature Conservation works with landowners in the Margaret River region to improve management of remnant bushland and enhance habitat resilience and linkages for wildlife. Habitat loss and fragmentation are major contributors to biodiversity decline across the region.
Many fauna species once widespread in the Margaret River region are now rare or restricted in range. These include the western ringtail possum, brush-tailed phascogale, chuditch, Baudin’s black cockatoo, Carnaby’s black cockatoo, and the red-tailed black cockatoo. Others such as the brush-tail possum, quenda and western brush wallaby are now less common. Animal or plant species can become isolated in fragments or ‘islands’ of vegetation created by land clearing. The habitat value of the remaining vegetation is further compromised by introduced predators, dieback, environment weeds and inappropriate fire regimes.
Nature Conservation's 'Managing Bushland for Wildlife Program' works with landowners to bring back wildlife to high conservation bushland areas in the region. As many of these areas extend across property boundaries considerable challenges are involved in promoting an integrated, whole-of-system approach. The long term aim of the program is to improve habitat values, build more resilient ecosystems and greater species richness.
Landowners are engaged in long term strategic and coordinated programs and assisted to implement best practice bushland management including feral animal control, priority weed control, fire and biodiversity and dieback management. Fauna monitoring is used to develop a better understanding of fauna populations and landowners are engaged in capacity building activities to increase their skills and knowledge to manage their properties successfully into the future.
We live during what scientists have described as the ‘sixth greatest species extinction.’ Unlike previous mass-extinctions, this one is predominantly caused by humans.
Among developed nations’ Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinction. Nature Conservation is working to protect many unique species currently at risk in the Margaret River region.
To this end it works in partnership with researchers, specialist organisations and citizen scientists to learn more about species under threat. These activities are complemented by strategies to raise awareness of species at risk along with conservation programs to protect their habitat and assist in their recovery.
Currently Nature Conservation focuses on a number of key species at risk that are representative of values significant to the region. These include the critically endangered Margaret River hairy marron and the Margaret River burrowing crayfish – freshwater crustaceans unique to the Margaret River – as well as a suite of threatened south west native fish species.
Nature Conservation is also working in partnership with local and state government to protect the critically endangered western ringtail possum. Similarly, it assists Birdlife WA with efforts to conserve the three species of black cockatoo that inhabit forests of the region.
Nature has an unrivalled capacity to provide children with opportunities for critical thinking, creative inquiry, problem solving and intellectual development.
The ‘Our Patch’ environmental education program run by Nature Conservation teaches ecological awareness in the region’s schoolchildren through engagement with nature and involvement in local conservation issues and programs. It inspires the next generation to value, respect and care for nature and become our future environmental stewards. It currently caters for over 500 children annually from 7 different schools.
Nature Conservation staff work closely with teachers in local schools to provide an adaptable program linked to the school curriculum based around learning experiences gained in the local environment. This includes exposure to scientists, Wardandi custodians, farmers and other land managers who share their first-hand experiences in managing local environmental issues.
Another Nature Conservation program, ‘Adopt a Spot’, connects local schools to an area of bushland, river foreshore or coastline in the region. This further connects young people with nature and engages school communities in long term environmental restoration projects alongside local volunteer groups.
Both programs provide experiences that foster a higher level of environmental literacy in children. This results in a greater propensity to treat the region and the planet in an environmentally responsible manner.