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Former riverkeeper turns author
James Holland is excited about the release of his first photo book, "Altamaha: A River and Its Keeper," but for him it's about more than displaying his work.

He is proud of the photos and is happy to see the finished product.

"It's great to see it come out," he said.

But the true measure of the book's success will be in how well it educates the next generation about the fragile ecology of the wild and free-flowing Altamaha River.

"I'm hoping it's more than something to just lay on the coffee table," Holland said.

When serving as the Altamaha Riverkeeper, a job he held for more than a decade, he spent countless hours on the river protecting it from environmental degradation.

The river's future now rests in the hands of the next generation, he said.

"The old folks, we lost. So our only option is to look to the young people," he said.

The next generation may be just what rivers like the Altamaha need to maintain their nearly pristine scenery, Holland said.

"They already know more than I did when I was 30," he said. "They are smart."

Originally from Cochran, Holland was not always an environmental advocate. After moving to the coast in 1967, he began fishing and hunting along the river and later became a commercial blue crab fisherman.

When his catches began declining, Holland began educating himself on the area's environmental and political issues. His research developed into a deep conviction to protect the river and preserve it for future generations.

"People aren't (only) part of the problem. People are the problem," Holland said. "The truth hurts."

He became Altamaha Riverkeeper in 1999 and immediately began taking photos to show how environmental issues were affecting the watershed. Holland discovered quickly that photography was a new outlet for him.

"The camera opened up a whole new world for me out there," Holland said.

Gone were his days of shooting to kill, he said. It was time to show everyone how he saw the river he loved.

"Instead of taking a gun to shoot it, shoot it with a camera and you have it forever," he said.

More than 12 years worth of pictures he compiled as riverkeeper are now the basis for athe more than 180-page book from The University of Georgia Press chronicling plant and animal life along the Altamaha.

His photos are accompanied by words from Dorinda Dallmeyer, director of the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program at UGA, and Janisse Ray, author of several books, including the best-selling "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood."

Holland said they deserve every bit as much credit, if not more, for the book.

"The writers deserve the kudos," he said. "They did the part I can't do. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible."

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