The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 was arguably the worst Shoalhaven has ever encountered.
Starting in November 2019 the Currowan Fire burnt through 320,385 hectares in the Shoalhaven over 74 days.
That equates to 68 per cent of the Local Government Area - 311 houses, 26 facilities and 585 outbuildings were destroyed and another 173 houses, 28 facilities and 265 outbuildings were damaged.
But the damage to the environment and the fauna is immeasurable.
While many parts of the burnt landscape are recovering and animals are returning, we really don't have good information about how fast animals are returning, or how long it will take for populations to re-establish.
Shoalhaven Landcare, a hardworking network of volunteers, has been undertaking numerous projects to try and re-establish the ecology in some of the fire ravaged areas.
Shoalhaven Landcare was successful in gaining four bushfire recovery grants from Great Eastern Ranges, WIRES, Landcare and Federal Government, totalling $80,000 in May, June and July last year.
All the funding needed to be spent quickly, by early-mid 2021. However, Shoalhaven vice-chair Greg Thompson says the recovery efforts would be ongoing - in some cases for many years.
"So many areas of the Shoalhaven were devastated in the fires," he said.
"It was a case of where do we start?"
The group identified a number of projects across the region that required urgent help.
Recovery actions were undertaken at 21 different localities, ranging from Kangaroo Valley and Budgong in the north, through to Milton and Morton in the south.
"We are currently in the process of wrapping up those activities and expenditures," Mr Thompson said.
These grants enabled Shoalhaven Landcare to undertake activities including pest control, propagation of new plants, replanting and revegetation, weed control, work on alternative habitat for native fauna and field days and site assessments with landowners whose properties were severely burnt out.
"We worked over 50 different sites, often carrying out multiple activities at each site," Mr Thompson said.
"There have been 30 sites where we did feral pest control work, while at 12 sites we assisted with revegetation and replanting, including to supply plants to land owners.
"At six sites, we are helping with weed control, which is continuing."
A big focus has been installing alternative habitat for wildlife. This has included supplying and installing nesting boxes and trialling structures of logs and wood known as bandicoot bungalows.
The bungalows are basically piles of logs where bandicoots and other fauna can hide from foxes, Mr Thompson said.
"We also worked on improving the habitat for geckos and the endangered Broad-headed Snake."
This involved making and putting out artificial rocks, as well as modifying existing sites on rocky ridges.
Landcare helped to establish two monitoring projects, one with a student from Australian National University to monitor the occupation of those nesting boxes and a second with volunteers to monitor bandicoot activity at a fire impacted site.
Birds for Beginners walks and talks, held in conjunction with Birdlife Shoalhaven, were popular, with over 100 people attending despite COVID restrictions.
Forums were also held, one at Nowra and another at St Georges Basin, for affected local landowners and the general public to provide information on both flora and fauna recovery, what they can do and what role Landcare can play.
As for the recovery, Mr Thompson said in some areas it is happening, while others that were severely affected and in some cases certain species wiped out, "recovery had been slow".
"We knew in some areas it wouldn't happen fast," he said.
"We always knew it was going to be a long term recovery effort. Some habitats have recovered, but in some cases still remain unoccupied."
He said in many areas the understory and groundcovers have returned robustly.
"But in many places the canopy remains largely absent," he said.
"And many species need a good canopy area. Things like possums and gliders are very slow to come back.
"That in turn impacts other species - the animals who hunt them, like the various owl species and raptors. Life is hard for them.
"Ground dwelling animals like wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, lyrebirds and lace monitors are obviously back in the environment.
"Probably not in the population numbers they were prior to the fire, but they are now regularly seen and the populations appear, from observations only, to be healthy.
"No one has done research on how numbers in these populations have rebounded, especially the endangered species - we don't know if they are doing okay or suffering.
"It's all anecdotal evidence at this stage. Very little research is underway to look at these things at the ground level.
"We have a number of sites where we put out food and have cameras installed and we are generally getting images of possums, wallabies and wombats.
"We aren't seeing many gliders. We are seeing brush-tailed possums but not many ringtail possums. We aren't seeing many bandicoots."
Commonly after such devastating fire events numbers of particular species can "crash".
While different species can recover quicker and build up numbers in different areas, Mr Thompson said "some can't".
Those species assisted by conditions in an area can do better but there aren't any general rules.
"It can be a slow recovery, sometimes taking two, three, four, five years," Mr Thompson said.
"It's a bit similar to what is happening with the return of the canopy - it all takes time."
In the meantime, however, those remaining unburnt patches of bush become vital.
"Unburnt areas become important refuges," he said.
"They allow those animals that have survived to recover and then hopefully breed up populations and eventually move back to those burnt out areas when they have recovered."
Compounding the recovery of native fauna is the threat of feral animals.
"Our observations are that the feral animals, like cats and foxes were just as devastated in the fires as some of our native species they prey on," Mr Thompson said.
Mr Thompson described it as a bit of a race between predators and prey after such bad fires.
"It is easier to hunt because there are now fewer places for animals to hide and seek refuge," he said.
"It also means when a feral cat or fox kills an animal it has a bigger impact as there are now less native species around.
"We have a number of cameras out in the burnt areas, and we have seen very few feral pests which is good.
"But it's known that foxes and cats will re-invaded areas quickly where food is available.
"That's why the work of the Shoalhaven Fox Control Strategy is also so important."
Mr Thompson has encouraged local landowners to get involved with Landcare.
"We would invite landowners to borrow some of our cameras for use in burnt out areas for a couple of weeks or months and then they can see what's on their place," he said.
"We also have a supply of traps to target foxes and cats which we are happy to lend out to people.
"We invite people who want to know more about the environment on their property and how to help it recover to get in touch and someone from Landcare can visit the property, walk around it and give advice.
"We are keen to have people approach us to become part of the recovery effort."