THE sale of a cornerstone patch of remnant rainforest to the National Parks and Wildlife Service near Upper Coopers Creek has renewed hopes the land will be fully rehabilitated and an abandoned walking trail revitalised.
The 79ha property forms a "missing link" between the remnant lowland rainforests of Goonengerry and Nightcap National Parks, relics of the so-called Big Scrub which once covered the region.
It features the dramatic Wanganui Gorge, a potential tourism drawcard through which bushwalkers could wander along a picturesque 2km trail.
Veteran conservationist and landowner Dailan Pugh originally purchased the property in 1996 after efforts to lobby National Parks to purchase it hit a dead end.
Punctuated by towering cliffs of volcanic rock, it is prime habitat to numerous threatened plants and animals, including the marbled frogmouth, the pouched frog, and Albert's lyrebird.
In total, the property supports 16 threatened plant species and 29 threatened fauna species.
While more than half the property is pristine rainforest in its original form, local Landcare group EnviTE has removed lantana from about 13ha, leaving a further 7ha still infested.
With National Parks now agreeing to purchase the land, Mr Pugh said he hoped they could finish the job, as well as rehabilitate the walking trail.
"It is not just conservation value, but social value... it has 100m cliffs down one side of the gorge, it has a beautiful creek running through it, it's one of the few relatively intact areas of lowland subtropical rainforest we have left."
"There's actually a huge fig tree that years ago The Northern Star did a local competition to find the biggest fig tree in their readership and that tree won."
However Mr Pugh said the project would probably require special funding, which given the current funding climate for Landcare may take several years.
National Parks will take control of the land at the end of this month.