One of the hardest things to do in life is to believe in a goal, even when you have no idea how you’re going to achieve it. Having a vision, along with investing the hard work to make it a reality, can become a life’s work. For Mark Bachmann, it wasn’t just his goal that seemed impossible. Faced with a ticking clock, the challenges of land and water management, and the lives of several endangered species on the line, Mark’s goal was looking like a pipe dream that would never come true.
It all started in 2013. Bachmann, along with a small team of scientists calling themselves the Nature Glenelg Trust, were investigating a large swath of land in southeastern Australia known as Walker Swamp. At the time, the land was being used as a plantation for blue gum — a common, utilitarian Eucalyptus tree. For centuries, the natural wetland environment had been drained or diverted to accommodate commercial projects, which had devastated the local flora and fauna. Grass frogs, turtles, and rare birds, along with scores of fish and insect varieties, had long been absent from the land.
Time-lapse footage of the Walker Swamp sand bag regulator construction!
Posted by Nature Glenelg Trust on Wednesday, April 24, 2019
“It was a dry dust bowl effectively, but you could still see that it was a wetland, and it could be a wetland again,” Bachmann told ABC news. That goal, however far-fetched it seemed at the time, drew Bachmann and the Nature Glenelg Trust into a lengthy battle for the wetlands. Over the course of a year, the team was able to put their research into action in a small corner of the swamp. With the help of the Hamilton Field Naturalist Club and some of the farmers on the land, a small portion of the swamp was successfully flooded and restored. As a result, “The birds all came back, the frogs all came back, [and] threatened fish turned up,” according to Bachmann.
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But the team wasn’t done yet — four more years would pass until in 2018, The Nature Glenelg Trust was able to purchase 1,000 acres of Walker Swamp. It took generous donations, state funding, and hours of backbreaking work, but a new picture of the swamp was starting to emerge, and Bachmann’s goal was becoming reality. The low grass and blue gum trees were gradually inundated with water, becoming home to plants, animals, and insects that had long been driven away. “To see the change, the ways these things bounce back is pretty incredible,” said Lachlan Farrington, an ecologist who worked on the site.
For many on the team, one animal in particular made all the work worth it. Nicole Mojonnier, the Education Program Coordinator, noted on the Trust’s Facebook page, “This is my favourite Threatened Species and the reason why my fascination and passion for the Australian wildlife started at the age of 6! Decades later the fascination for the cute, weird, unusual and threatened platypus remains.” For Mark Bachmann, the platypus was a clear sign that The Nature Glenelg Trust was achieving its goal. While walking through the slowly-recovering Walker Swamp, he spotted the first platypus to return to the area – and captured it on video:
“[T]his platypus has clearly been… enjoying the current abundance of water in the landscape,” he added on the Trust’s website. “It confirmed that what we were doing was so important for the river.” Wetlands are necessary for biodiversity to flourish, but sadly, they are often destroyed or reshaped into monocultures that cannot support the plants and animals that naturally inhabit them. To Bachmann, and the rest of The Nature Glenelg Trust, the successful transformation of Walker Swamp was not just the culmination of years of hard work, it was the start of something totally new. “In short,” Bachmann wrote on the Trust’s site in January, “we expect to see many wetland areas… transformed over the years ahead, with increasing habitat complexity and diversity returning. […] I am also extremely humbled to see what the project at Walker Swamp now means to so many people, and we look forward to continuing to share this special place with you over the years ahead.”
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