“Okefenokee Destiny” Tour

The Okefenokee Swamp, “The Trembling Earth,” is a place unlike any other in the world. It’s the largest intact blackwater wetland in North America and a mecca for research scientists from around the world. It’s also in the heart of an economically depressed region and under pressure from extractive industries. How can the Okefenokee be conserved for future generations – and what lessons can we learn to keep from repeating our past mistakes?

“Okefenokee Destiny,” a 14-minute PBS EcoSense for Living documentary, addresses these questions as it takes viewers on a journey through the swamp and introduces them to Okefenokee experts. Beginning in August, Georgia River Network will present the short film at locations across Georgia to help amplify the movement to protect the Okefenokee from mining. All screenings will be followed by a brief Q&A with experts featured in the documentary.

Admissions is free at all events!

 

GEORGIA RIVER NETWORK PRESENTS:

 GEORGIA TOUR SCHEDULE:

 

ATHENS, GA

4 PM ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 2
CINÉ

RESERVE YOUR SEATS

 

COLUMBUS, GA

NATURE NOW FILM FESTIVAL

11:30 AM ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 19
11 AM ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 20
CSU RIVERSIDE THEATRE

THOMASVILLE, GA

THOMASVILLE WILDLIFE ARTS FESTIVAL

12 PM ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20
THOMASVILLE CENTER FOR THE ARTS

 

 

Screening tour sponsored by Okefenokee Swamp Park & Adventures.

BIG NEWS: Twin Pines Proposal to Mine Back to Square One!

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday, June 3, that it is reinstating its jurisdiction over Twin Pines Minerals’ proposal to mine for minerals adjacent to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The announcement cited the company’s failure to consult the Muscogee Creek Nation, a tribal community that would be impacted by the proposed mine.

This move is a setback for the Alabama-based mining company, who will be forced to reapply for its mining permits on the federal level. After the news broke, Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck told reporters, “Hallelujah! The Corps is re-engaged and it’s doubtful that mining will pass the federally required environment impact statement level study.”

The Georgia EPD has stated that it will not complete its evaluation of state permit applications until the related federal approvals have been issued.

CLICK HERE to read the latest news.

 

What We Are Fighting For:

The Okefenokee Swamp, one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders; the largest blackwater swamp in North America; and a wetland of international importance, is threatened by a proposed titanium mine.

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, an Alabama mining company with a poor track record of environmental stewardship, has asked federal and state authorities permission to operate a 898-acre heavy mineral sand mine next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This is the first phase of a mining operation on a 12,000-acre site. The company proposes digging 50-foot deep trenches in Trail Ridge, the very rise of land that helps regulate water levels in the swamp. These excavations would extend below the water table of the swamp and could alter water levels in the swamp.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has written that “should impacts occur, they may not be able to be reversed, repaired or mitigated for.” Click here to read an open letter from the science community, signed by more than 40 scientists from across the nation, about the proposed mining project.

At risk is one of the last self-contained, naturally functioning wetlands left on Earth. Among the most visited National Wildlife Refuges in the country, the Okefenokee hosts some 600,000 visitors annually who help create more than 750 local jobs and a total annual economic output of $64.7 million in the four counties surrounding the swamp.

Ask Governor Brian Kemp to save the swamp and stop this mine.

 

Charlton County Herald Notice

Okefenokee / St Marys River Named Most Endangered River of 2020 by American Rivers

Okefenokee Protection Alliance

American Rivers named the Okefenokee Swamp and St. Marys River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2020. Rena Ann Peck, Executive Director of Georgia River Network, explains “The Okefenokee Swamp is like the heart of the regional Floridan aquifer system in southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. The life-force of water from the Okefenokee Swamp not only flows into the St. Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean, but also into the Suwannee River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Mining on Trail Ridge can draw down the water level of the Okefenokee Swamp and dewater headwater wetlands and tributaries and the rivers they feed, destroying natural habitat for federally listed species and providing dry peat fueling uncontrollable fires.” Read the press release.

Twin Pines Minerals Permit Application

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, an Alabama mining company, is seeking permission to operate a heavy mineral sand mine to extract titanium in Charlton County on Trail Ridge adjacent to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Trail Ridge is an ancient geologic formation impounding the swamp on its eastern boundary. Twin Pines’ 8,000-acre mining area is dangerously close to the Refuge.

Excavation and groundwater pumping could permanently alter the ancient geologic features that create the swamp and provide important wildlife habitat. Alterations to groundwater flow or impacts to the swamp could impact the Suwannee and St. Mary’s rivers. In addition, the mining could impact imperiled species, including gopher tortoises, a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Gopher tortoises are considered a “keystone” species on which other animals depend.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has written that “Should impacts occur, they may not be able to be reversed, repaired, or mitigated for.” They originally submitted for a permit for a 2,400 acre mining destroying over 500 acres of wetlands and 4,658 linear feet of stream. Twin Pines withdrew this original application and now has resubmitted for mining 740 acres only 2.7 miles from the Refuge. We continue to oppose mining on Trail Ridge in order to protect the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys and Suwannee rivers that originate from it.

Update as of June 3, 2022:

Changes to the Clean Water Act regulations enacted in early 2020 enabled Twin Pines Minerals LLC to bypass the federal wetlands permitting process and any federal environmental oversight of the mining proposal. This led to the fate of the mine hingeing on decisions made by Georgia leaders and the state’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD).

However, in early June of 2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would be reasserting federal jurisdiction over the wetlands on Twin Pines’ mining site. In the memo, the Corps stated that the company had not adequately consulted with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation during the permit process. With this news, the Georgia EPD announced they would be putting the five environmental permits they were reviewing on hold and asked Twin Pines to reapply after they apply for and receive federal permits.

Georgia River Network and our partners in the Okefenokee Protection Alliance are encouraged by the Corps’ decision to reassert jurisdiction and are grateful that Senator Ossof and others have engaged in this issue and taken action to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from mining.

Get more details on the Okefenokee Protection Alliance’s Resources page.

 

Read Georgia River Network’s Comments to the Corps

The Okefenokee Swamp

Alligator Near Billies Lake

Photo by Tom Wilson

Covering 440,000 acres or 630 square miles, the Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America and one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems. The swamp was designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 and is the largest NWR east of the Mississippi. Since 1937 the protection has ensured the swamp remains largely unspoiled. “One of the coolest things about the Okefenokee is that it’s basically an intact ecosystem,” said Refuge Manager Michael Lusk, noting that the Everglades, while larger, had been ditched and drained. And while there once was logging in some parts of the Okefenokee, the swamp has been protected for more than 80 years. “What we have now is a large intact, functioning ecosystem and that is so rare, especially in the eastern U.S.”

Water Trails and Recreation

Today, 600,000 people visit each year to discover its amazing landscapes—including peat beds, island prairies, and cypress forests—and wildlife like American alligators, sandhill cranes, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. National Geographic named the Swamp one of the 100 most beautiful places on the planet. In 2015, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia was also identified as one of the top 10 canoe trips in the world by Green Global Travel.

The refuge is part of the National Water Trail System, one of only 21 designated trails in the U.S., in part because it requires an act of Congress. The Okefenokee and the Suwannee River both have water trails that are part of Georgia River Network’s Water Trail System. The St. Mary’s trail is under development. To learn more about Georgia Water Trails, click here.

The swamp was formed 6500 years ago. The mining operation will last 8 years. As former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbit once said “titanium is a common mineral while the Okefenokee is a very uncommon swamp.”

Water Trail to Minnies Lake

Photo by Tom Wilson

Okefenokee Trail Ridge Mining Site & Regional Water Trails

Georgia River Network – Okefenokee Swamp PowerPoint Presentation

GRN is a Member of the Okefenokee Protection Alliance

Okefenokee Protection Alliance
The Okefenokee Protection Alliance is a coalition of more than 30 conservation organizations representing millions of members that have joined forces to save the swamp from the proposed Twin Pines Minerals, LLC titanium mine and other threats that jeopardize the integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp. Learn more at https://protectokefenokee.org/

Save the Swamp Campaign – We want your swamp stories!

Okefenokee Protection Alliance
The Okefenokee Swamp has been the scene of countless adventures and awe-inspiring encounters with nature and as this national treasure faces the threat of a mining operation near its tea-colored waters, Georgia River Network wants your stories, photographs and videos that illustrate the importance of protecting the largest blackwater swamp in the U.S. Send your photographs, videos and stories to info@garivers.org. Together, we can SAVE THE SWAMP.

Letters to the Editor

Read the Letter to the Editor by Rena Peck Stricker in the Savannah Morning News.

Op Eds

November 30, 2021. “Open Letter from the Science Community: Proposed Mining Near the Okefenokee”

Latest News Articles

July 21, 2022. NPR. “Muscogee Nationgets a say in management of Georgia’s Okefenokee wildlife refuge”

June 15, 2022. Georgia Recorder. “Will confirmation of suspected tribal burial grounds end Okefenokee mine for good?”

June 13, 2022. The Georgia Sun. “Georgia suspends applications for titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp”

June 9, 2022. Saporta Report. “Federal government gets involved with mining proposals near Okefenokee Swamp, making approval less likely”

June 9, 2022. Capitol Beat.  “State suspending permit applications for titanium mine near Okfenokee Swamp”

June 7, 2022. Valdosta Today. “Army Corps blocks strip mine near Okefenokee”

June 7, 2022. Hatch Magazine. “Okefenokee mine permit revoked by Army Corps”

June 7, 2022. Savannah Morning News. “Twin Pines Minerals Set to Reapply for Mining Permit Near Okefenokee Swamp”

June 6, 2022. Fox 31. “Protection for the Okefenokee Swamp has been restored”

June 6, 2022. WABE. “Why the Muscogee (Creek) Nation gets a say on the Okefenokee mine proposal”

June 6, 2022. GPB. “Feds Dealt Major Setback to Proposed Mine Near Okefenokee”

June 6, 2022. GPB. “U.S. Army Corps Revokes Approval of Mining Near Okefenokee”

June 6, 2022. Capitol Beat. “U.S. Army Corps Throws Roadblock at Proposed Titanium Mine Near Okefenokee Swamp”

June 6, 2022. E&E News. “Army Corps deals blow to Ga. titanium mine, reverses Trump move”

June 6, 2022. The Wild Hunt. “Feds Restore Jurisdiction Over Okefenokee Mining Proposal”

June 5, 2022. The Washington Post. “Agency Ruling Delivers Big Setback to Okefenokee Mining Plan”

June 4, 2022. AP. “Agency Ruling Delivers Big Setback to Okefenokee Mining Plan”

June 4, 2022. The Current Georgia. “U.S. Army Corps Revokes Approval  of Mining Near Okefenokee”

June 4, 2022. Georgia Recorder. “Feds Intervene iin Proposed Mining Project Near Okefenokee Swamp, Citing Lack of Input from Tribal Community”

June 4, 2022. “Ossoff Hails ‘Restored Protection’ of Okefenokee After Feds Resume Oversight of Mining Plan”

June 4, 2022. Savannah Morning News. “Army Corps Blocks Mine Near Okefenokee, Cites Failure to Consult Muscogee Creek Nation”

June 4, 2022. Florida Times-Union. “Army Corps blocks mine near Okefenokee, cites failure to consult Muscogee Creek Nation”

June 3, 2022. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Okefenokee Mine Project Dealt Major Blow by Army Corps of Engineers”

May 31, 2022. Thomasville Times Enterprise. “Taylor Honored for Evironmental Legislative Leadership”

May 30, 2022. Saporta Report. “The Okefenokee Experience: A tri-county effort to boost ecotourism around the swamp”

May 25, 2022. Fox31. “Senator Jon Ossoff is advocating for the protection of the Okefenokee swamp”