Save the Okefenokee Swamp

Written in collaboration with Okefenokee Protection Alliance

The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater wetlands in North America and one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems. Located in the southeast corner of Georgia, its wide range of habitats is home to a rich diversity of plants, birds, fish, and wildlife and includes the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Mary’s Rivers.

This ancient bog is a popular recreation destination that generates millions of dollars each year for the local economy.

Annually over 400,000 visitors from all over the world come to enjoy its cypress swamps, upland pine forest, wet and dry prairies, and winding waterways.

Photo by: Timothy J. Carroll

Trail Ridge, the geologic formation that forms the eastern boundary of the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia, has long been a target of the titanium mining industry. In the 1990s, the DuPont corporation attempted to mine a vast swath of land along the refuge boundary — a proposal that faced near-universal opposition. Because the project threatened to impair the function of the swamp, as well as its famed wildlife habitat, then Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt declared that mining “should never happen,” and has no place next to what he called a “very uncommon swamp.”

Extensive public outcry and government opposition led DuPont to abandon the project and donate much of the property for permanent protection.

Yet, in 2019, Twin Pines Minerals submitted an application to the US Army Corps of Engineers to operate on 2,414 acres, adjacent to the refuge boundary. As a result of strong citizen opposition, they were forced to withdraw that application.

But Twin Pines Minerals didn’t give up.

They submitted a revised application in 2020. It slightly reduced the size of the project area but government agencies expect operations to eventually grow to 12,000 acres, potentially coming within 400 feet of the swamp itself. Tens of thousands of people contacted the US Army Corps of Engineers to voice their opposition to this destructive project.

Unfortunately, the Okefenokee is still under threat because the federal government has changed rules in the Clean Water Act. Now Twin Pines Minerals is pushing to proceed with their 600-acre heavy mineral sand mine without any federal oversight.

Photo by: Timothy J. Carroll

This project would first impact the wetlands along the Trail Ridge.

This area of the Trail Ridge barrier consists of semi-permeable soils that allow for water storage and circulation within the swamp. Should mining damage these soils, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Environmental Protection Agency anticipate that “permanent” and “unacceptable” damage could befall the Okefenokee Swamp.

Additionally, mineral mining requires freshwater sources, and the most reliable source of water in Southeast Georgia is the Floridan aquifer. The amount of withdrawals required for titanium mining operations could lower the Okefenokee Swamp’s water table and reduce the natural flows of both the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

Groundwater drawdowns could also exacerbate fire frequency and intensity and contribute to droughts, compounding the impacts of climate change.

Photo by: Timothy J. Carroll

Permitting agencies must reject any proposals that risk the long-term protection of the treasured swamp and the rivers it births, including the Twin Pines titanium mining permit. With the federal agencies abandoning science and public input, we now must depend on Georgia’s leaders to do the right thing.

Don’t Risk One of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders: Tell Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to deny this permit

10 Responses to “Save the Okefenokee Swamp”

  1. Tommy Willis

    I was member of the Tifton club on the Alpaha River for over thirty plus years. It is fishing that has less 25 members. During that time we never rad cut a tree unless it was dead. I had the forest club come one weekend with my daughter who is a graduate of forest college. They so excited that in 15 acres of the property when found 18 gopher hole nests and saw 4 indigo snakes while visiting the property. Indigo need @ least 600 acres to survive. The Twin Pines can’t remove the turtle or the snakes. The fishing on the Alapaha river which is beautiful in itself is less than 2 hours from the swamp. If any of the Twin Pines officials every visted the swamp would say no. Or better yet get a canoe, a cane pole and some bait and fishing there in the spring. I live St. Simons which an hour away and fish like I did when I was 16. God forbid the project continues.

  2. Susan Rosenstein

    Say No to All mining now. We have so little untouched nature.. we need these places for our health .. mental and physical

  3. Jane Watson

    If ever a time to do what is right, it is now, and all involved here know in their heart of hearts, this is NOT right! STOP IT!

  4. Douglas Sedon

    I may not live in Georgia, but the last time I checked, I live on the same planet that Georgia is on. This project and projects like this are what is destroying the planet’s ability to sustain human civilization.

  5. Daniel O'Brien

    I support wildlife and their habitats since I care about them and don’t want to lose them. Continue to support and I will help save them

  6. Eric Hensgen

    Our wild places are so vitally important, especially in this time of climate change, that they should not be disturbed. As storms grow stronger, wetlands are essential to mitigate their impacts and to improve water quality. To compromise this great natural resource with mining operations is foolhardy.

  7. Ask Janisse Ray, the famous author and poet, if she will spearhead an international expose on what is imminent disaster to the Okefenokee Swamp. She is tied into it on many levels and from her books her passion will transcend all opposition. It would be so sweet to see major organizations like the Captain Planet Foundation backing her up and bringing in millions of dollars for protection. That’s what the swamp needs now protection. Momma nature

  8. Ronald Derringer

    I was blessed as a youngster to have lived next door to Eugene Cypert, Cypress, and his wife Marry. He was the Dept of Interior willdlife biologist for the Okefenokee swamp. They embedded within me the values that let me fully understand the interconnectedness of all the various ecosystems within this, extremely rare sanctuary. I spent much time along the St. Marys river and fishing on Billy’s Lake in the middle of the swamp. Now an adult, in all my travels I’ve no landscape or environment equivalent to this swampy paradise. From the snakes and lizards and birds Cypress and Mary taught me to identify to the haunting waterways throughout. Cypert’s specialty was the study of vast natural burns that ocurred withing the swamp and their impact on the natural ecology. The one thing, most importantly, I learned was how everything was connected, especially the water, whether above or underground. No artificial boundaries restrain the flow of water or any changes made to it. The Land of Trembling Earth is so rare and special that no economics, no number of temporary jobs, can offset the long term risks this mining development would place upon the future of this treasure.


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