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Vanishing Paradise

Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of coastal marshland, roughly the size of Delaware, since 1932. Louisiana has approximately 40 percent of the coastal wetlands of the lower forty-eight states. Tragically, scientists say the multibillion-dollar economic and ecological resource is disappearing at an astonishing rate of 25 to 35 square miles a year... Scientists believe that the impending catastrophe is linked to rising world sea levels, global warming, saltwater intrusion, nutria that eat and destroy coastal vegetation, natural subsidence, and the construction of levees...

Vanishing Paradise

Duck Hunting In The Louisiana Marsh 
photos by Julia Sims
text by John R. Kemp
Pelican Publishing, 2004.

Nature photographer Julia Sims visited 20 of the most exclusive duck-hunting clubs in the Louisiana wetlands to document a threatened way of life and the tragic decline of one of America's most important ecosystems.

As journalist John Kemp reports in the opening pages of this large-format photo expose, Sims' fascination with Louisiana's wetlands began when she was growing up in Baton Rouge. "I remember hanging out the car window as we drove through Lutcher and seeing the southern edge of the beautiful Manchac Swamp. I can remember thinking, 'What's back there?' There was just that wall. To think, now I'm back there..."

Visiting generations-old predominantly male duck-hunting clubs along the grassy rivers and swampy bayous of the coastal marshlands, Sims got to know the club members as she pursued images of the natural beauty that surrounded them. "At first I thought they were only interested in hunting," she says. "That was certainly a big part of why they were there, but they are also greatly concerned about the disappearing wetlands in Louisiana and the declining number of waterfowl. They are fun-loving but disciplined and they pay close attention to shooting limits.

Kemp's text explains how erosion, pollution and governmental malfeasance threatens the Louisiana wetlands. Sims' photos document a moment a time when it was still a sportsman's paradise."

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana

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