TONY Parkes likes to imagine dinosaurs scratching their backs on the rough bark of the hoop pine tree - one of the many native species that were around when the big creatures roamed the Earth and which are still with us today.
That kind of mind-expanding thinking occurs when we spend time in the small parcels of Big Scrub rainforest that remain on the North Coast, says Dr Parkes, the president of Big Scrub Landcare.
It is an imaginative empathy and appreciation he hopes will be sparked by the publication of a book that studies what was once a vast wonder of the natural world - 75,000 hectares of lowland subtropical rainforest that thrived in the red volcanic soils from the Wollumbin caldera, reaching south of Ballina and west to
Launching at the Byron Writers Festival this weekend, The Big Scrub Rainforest - A Journey Through Time, is a comprehensive work, incorporating the writings of sociologists, landholders, restorers, nature lovers, experts and supporters and scientists of every stripe.
Beautiful photographs and illustrations light up the pages alongside essays on how the landscape was formed, its "pre-history” as part of Gondwana, its significance to the Windjabul people of the Bundjalung Nation, flora and fauna, seed dispersal, ways of seeing the Big Scrub (past to present) and the role for farmers as custodians.
Macadamia grower Martin Brook writes a personal piece on his love of the rainforest - and attests to the productive synergies created by restoring sections of it on his Byron Bay property, Brookfarm.
Rous Water co-produced the book with Big Scrub Landcare and staffer Anthony Acret tells the "water story” - including how important this ancient vegetation is to the health of our waterways.
The East Coast forest was almost wiped out by Europeans in the late 1800s, reduced to 1% of its former glory by the government's requirement for settlers to clear the land in order to obtain a freehold title.
It was the "selectors” who did the damage, Dr Parkes says, much more than the loggers taking out the red cedar trees to be turned into window and door frames.
"The forest is incredibly ancient, with some species tracing a lineage of more than 200 million years,” he says.
"Its richness of diversity make it unique in the world and incredibly valuable. I hope this book will help to make people aware of its significance and beauty.”
The remnants of forest - about 1000 hectares or so scattered across 100 sites - are critically endangered but the work of the Landcare group gives cause for hope.
Its workers and volunteers have planted 1.5 million trees in its 25-year history, adding 300 hectares of forest to the remnant "scrub”.
The book will be launched on Saturday, August 5, in the Belongil Room at the Byron Writers Festival.