A lone black cypress (Callitris endlicheri) high on the hill is the only specimen of a stand of once common species on Bloomfield, Yass.
Prized for its resistance to termites, it stands mute for its usefulness as a building timber in a 25ha paddock which has been deliberately destocked since 2016. The paddock is bisected by drainage lines, with differing aspects and soils determining a range of vegetation communities.
Surrounded by Kurrajongs, the black cypress is a symbol of owners Prue and Alasdair MacLeod's wish to understand the effect that long-term set-stocking of Merino Sheep has had on their country.
The property is managed by Matt Crozier who works alongside Alison Elvin, Natural Capital Pty Ltd director who is monitoring the five-year project, now in its fourth year.
"The owners have a tremendous respect for the natural landscape but they are still running a large scale sheep and cattle operation so they want to know how the two can combine for ultimate benefit," Mr Crozier said.
"The paddocks used to be set stocked for long periods of time but now we have adopted a practice of high density grazing for short periods with long intervals of spell across the farm"
"With this stock exclusion project being monitored against our regular grazing paddocks we hope to have a clearer idea of how we can rejuvenate the country but still make money."
Ms Elvin is very excited about the native plant response even through an extended period of drought. She has identified uncommon and vulnerable native plant species including the palatable barb-wire grass (Cymbopogob refractus)
"When I came here four years ago any native grasses identified were predominantly late summer C4 types such as red grass and hairy panic," she said.
"But now we are seeing increasing abundance of valuable native grasses, especially Weeping Grass (Microleana stipoides) and Wallaby grasses, (Rytidiosperma sp), together with many species of wildflowers, shrubs and trees which would have been continually grazed down under the old regime."
"Particularly exciting is the proliferation of black cypress seedings around the lone tree so perhaps we might see them once again in significant numbers.
Other benefits of removing livestock is the significant decrease in erosion across the paddock; the return of 'chain-of-ponds' water-flows to the gullies; and the unexpected destruction of large thistle populations from bio-control weevils.
"It all adds to the overall ecological health of the paddock which is essential if we are to ultimately produce healthy animal products cost-effectively" Ms Elvin said.
Mr Crozier said the MacLeods were very keen to retain standing dead timber as potential homes for native animals which are also vital in the ultimate success of the paddock as a guide to future regenerative projects.
"Alasdair and Prue are fascinated by what happens to the land once the stock are excluded," he said.
"They have a feeling of responsibility to the land and I think we are seeing a tremendous response even though it has been very dry."
Ms Elvin also pointed out the aesthetic benefits of having native fauna and flora as a mix on a pastoral property, and the opportunity to profit from that combination.
"Besides the joy of seeing healthy plants and soil at the entrance to their property, there is also the opportunity to harvest their seed for other revegetation projects" she said.