Queen's birthday honours: Andy Macqueen

Adventure conservationist: Andy Macqueen has been honored in the Queen's Birthday list.
Adventure conservationist: Andy Macqueen has been honored in the Queen's Birthday list.

He's meticulously researched and authored five books about the wild places and people of the Blue Mountains, detailing the travails of everyone from forgotten explorers to that cradle of conservation in NSW, the Blue Gum Forest.

And now renowned bushwalker, writer, conservationist, wilderness explorer, bushcarer and environmental campaigner, Andy Macqueen, has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to conservation and the environment.

"It's a bit of a surprise," Mr Macqueen told the Gazette. "And a bit embarrassing. I work with a lot of other volunteers. Everyone is deserving of recognition."

Mr Macqueen,69,has been a quiet activist for the bush for decades, working on foundation weeding programs from Tasmania to the Wollemi to keep the wilderness pristine.

He developed a love for the Blue Mountains as a five-year-old while on walking holidays with his parents. And he cemented that passion in his teenage years after taking up Scouting and drafting in his Dad in the process.

Activist for the wilderness: Celebrating the Blue Gum Forest in 2001. Photo Rick Stevens, Sydney Morning Herald.

Activist for the wilderness: Celebrating the Blue Gum Forest in 2001. Photo Rick Stevens, Sydney Morning Herald.

Remembering those years with fondness, the trained civil engineer and hydrologist moved to the Mountains with his family in 1987, becoming a stay-at-home Dad while his teacher wife Liz worked at Blue Mountains Grammar.

"She has been along on this journey and given me the space to do this," he said.

Mr Macqueen worked in outdoor guiding and spent hours bushwalking with the Springwood Bushwalking Club, where he is a life member. Then in 2000 he became involved in the volunteer group Friends of the Colo to help regenerate the bush in the Wollemi wilderness. In 19 years they've removed 20,000 black willows.

Mr Macqueen has thoroughly explored the wild Colo River country following the tracks of the rugged expeditions of his great-great-grandfather, colonial surveyor Frederick Robert D'Arcy, who spent four punishing years surveying the river and all its tributaries in the 1830s.

So well known is Mr Macqueen for his bushwalking skills, in 1995 he scouted a safer route for Wollemi scientists investigating one of the most significant Aboriginal rock art finds in 50 years.

His greatest achievement he says has been working as a foundation member of Sea Spurge Remote Area Teams (SPRATS) from 2007, anenvironment care group removing the invasive sea spurge flowering plant in coastal Tasmania. It was a job many thought was impossible.

"We [Friends of the Colo members] were dropped in by helicopter and picked up 10 days later."

He despairs of modern technology, like mobile phones and GPS making wild places less wild. It's one of the reasons he loves his other hobby - rogaining - where he can just rely on a map and compass. In recent years his Australian team of over 65-year-olds managed to place third in the world championships in Latvia.

His wish is that more people will realise the benefits of conservation and the environment and find their soul salved by the wilderness.

"I fear for the future. We've tried to expose our own children and grandchildren to the bush. If you give people contact with nature everything else flows from that. People don't get it. That's the problem."