Barnes documented beauty, saw promise of Ky.

Barnes Herald-Leader

At a time when we're inundated with faux reality in the wild on television, it's important to honor and remember Tom Barnes.

Mr. Barnes, 56, who died Oct. 12, was the real thing. He was the guy who hauled his cameras to the top of a mountain to photograph an endangered flower, waiting an hour in 95 degree heat for it to open.

A native of South Dakota, he was the man who traveled to each of Kentucky's nature preserves to record the rarest of the rare so that Kentuckians could see, appreciate and protect what we have.

Mr. Barnes, the state extension wildlife specialist and a full professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry, published several books of photographs and essays about Kentucky's natural treasures.

He brought deep academic knowledge to his work, but what distinguished it, and him, was his profound passion and reverence for the diversity of the world he found on mountaintops, and in prairies, forests and streams.

Mr. Barnes sounded warnings that development, strip mining and careless policies and people could destroy things that can never be replaced. But he wasn't a scold; he was too positive for that. He found such joy in the wonders of the natural world that destroying them struck him as ingratitude toward God's gifts.

He said Black Mountain, an area threatened by surface mining, offered perhaps his favorite sight in May when the trilliums bloom.

"I feel so close to God when I am up there; the ground, covered with trilliums, sometimes looks like it snowed because it is covered in white," he said.

"You know, we all think we should please God, but we never seem to consider that God is also trying to please us. It really is a beautiful gift, and we should not destroy it for some short-term gain."

We can honor Mr. Barnes' memory by heeding his message.

A memorial Mass for Barnes will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Holy Spirit Parish Newman Center in Lexington.