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Most Kentuckians and visitors to the state are unaware of the Commonwealth's unique biological heritage - much less that much of it is in danger of disappearing forever. With over 100 glorious full-color photographs and insightful text, Kentucky's Last Great Places highlights the incredible natural beauty found in the Commonwealth's old-growth forests, prairies, wetlands, and other distinctive biological habitats. More than 3,000 vascular plants, 230 fish, 105 amphibians and reptiles, 350 birds, 75 mammals, and 12,000 insects call Kentucky home. Many of these species and their habitats are considered rare, threatened, or endangered. Overall, less than 1 percent of Kentucky is classified ecologically as being in a "pre-European" condition that deserves significant protection. Award-winning photographer and author Thomas G. Barnes combines his strikingly beautiful photographs with essays describing the splendor found in more than forty of Kentucky's diverse natural preserves or ecological areas, including the old-growth Blanton Forest near Pine Mountain in Harlan County, Axe Lake Swamp in Ballard County near the Mississippi River, Red River Gorge, the Kentucky River Palisades, Mammoth Cave, and many others. This spectacular oversized book provides an awareness of the biodiversity of Kentucky, what challenges there are to protecting its biological heritage, and how organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, the National Park Service, and others have protected and are continuing to protect the state's unique biological legacy. Kentucky's Last Great Places is both a stunning collection of nature photographs and a means for increasing our understanding of the fragile beauty of the state.
Thomas G. Barnes, an associate extension professor of forestry at the University of Kentucky, is the author of Gardening for the Birds.