In the spotlight - John Shepherd

The swamps of the Paddys River area of the NSW Southern Highlands are in a better state thanks to John Shepherd and his band of 12 volunteers, who together form the Penrose Swamps Conservation Group.

John Shepherd cutting a pine wildling

After a career as a structural geologist and geotechnical engineer in the mining sector, John retired to the Southern Highlands. His love of bushwalking and nature led him to discover stunningly beautiful local swamps.

He recognised the threat of Pinus radiata encroachment from adjacent pine plantations.Weeds such as this being one of the reasons for the listing as an endangered ecological community of the ‘Montane Peatlands and Swamps of the New England Tableland, NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin, South East Corner, South Eastern Highlands and Australia Alps bioregions’ under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, 1995. The swamps are also listed as an endangered ecological community under Commonwealth legislation as Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone (PDF 534KB).

In 2008, John established the Penrose Swamps Conservation Group. Their mission: to hand cut pine wildings from the swamps of the Paddys River area. John estimates that, over the last eight years, the group has contributed 2000 person hours to removing 50,000 pine wildings, covering an area of 250 hectares. The work is extremely important given that the area is recognised as a Saving our Species site for five site-managed species under the program - broad-leaved sally (Eucalyptus aquatica), Paddys River box (Eucalyptus macarthuri), dense-cord rush (Baloskion longipes), Klaphake's sedge (Carex klaphakei) and Wingecarribee gentian (Gentiana wingecarribiensis).

Much of the land that incorporates the Paddys River swamps is managed by the Forestry Corporation of NSW. John says that Forestry was initially sceptical of the group’s undertaking but has come to recognise the value of the swamps and the threat from pine wildings and is extremely supportive of the work.

Not only does John join the group once a month to hand cut pine wildings, he has co-written a journal article (PDF 3MB) on the threatened Eucalyptus aquatica found in the swamps of the Paddys River area. Another manuscript, on the regrowth of natural vegetation following removal of pine wildings, is currently undergoing peer review.

The Penrose Swamps Conservation Group will be experiencing a changing of the guard in the next few months with John and his wife moving to Albury to be closer to family. John has derived much satisfaction from his work and can clearly demonstrate the impact that the group has had. He is confident that work will continue without him, but as he says, he is only a phone call away.

By Sue Luscombe, OEH

To learn more about the Saving our Species program or to get involved, visit our website.