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One Grande Please (and Not the Starbucks Kind)

A book of aerial photography of the Rio Grande calls for action

July 28, 2011, 11:10 am
By Laurahitt
The Rio Grande: An Eagle’s View is more than your average coffee table book.



 

The tome, which was issued in July by Santa Fe conservation organization WildEarth Guardians, boasts aerial photographs of the Rio Grande from its headwaters in Colorado all the way to the delta where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico 1,900 miles later.

The Santa Fe conservation organization  worked with renowned aerial photographer Adriel Heisey to capture hundreds of stunning photos of the endangered river accompanied by essays from the likes of Robert Redford and Senator Tom Udall.

John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians, has worked with Heisey for a decade to inspire people to protect the once-mighty river.

“We all have a need for beauty and awe and wonder, and in tapping into those core human needs hopefully people will be inspired…and translate that into a desire to ensure that the river endures,” Horning says. “We’re at a time and place where that’s not a certainty.”

Heisey—whose photographs have been published in National Geographic—snapped all of the stunning images from his tiny airplane over the course of a decade.

According to Horning, for the first seven years, Heisey used his own self-built, ultra light airplane, which he would drive in a trailer to a launch site and assemble for each flight. But in order to be able to fly at night and at higher altitudes at the headwaters of the Rio Grande, Heisey switched to a slightly more solid airplane for the last three years of shooting.

When asked about the book's potential readership, Horning says, “We’re sending it to various federal and state decision makers,” but his dream is that it becomes part of an exhibition that travels around the Rio Grande region promoting the beauty of the river to the people who live in the watershed or along the river itself.

Horning also hopes this book will inspire more advanced conservation measures for the Rio Grande. “There’s no doubt that New Mexico and the Southwest are behind the times when it comes to conserving a living river. There are policies in place on many other rivers that have not yet been put into place here that we’d love to see implemented.”

But the primary message of the book is hopeful. “[The Rio Grande: An Eagle’s View] is intended to be a celebration of the river,” says Horning.

“Even though we’ve lost a lot, and we at times mourn that and at times get angry about that, the spirit of the book is celebratory, because we feel that although it is damaged river, there’s still a lot to celebrate. We hope people will reengage, and do whatever it is they feel like they can do to ensure that the river is around for future generations to enjoy.”

Horning added that by “generations” he means more than just the human world, as there are hundreds of fish and wildlife species that depend on the health of the Rio Grande.

 

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