One of the first acts by former President Trump after he was newly elected was to issue an executive order to roll back protections afforded by the Clean Water Act of 1972. Seemingly overnight, the incredibly complex question of what constitutes the waters of the US (WOTUS) became the jurisdiction of Georgia’s modest Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD). Alabama’s Twin Pines Minerals saw an open door. They immediately applied to mine within walking distance of the Okefenokee’s eastern boundary.
Dogwood Alliance and its network of partners have been working overtime to elevate this issue to the national level. We’re thrilled to announce that it has finally arrived!
Georgia’s Senators Warnock and Ossoff have written an open letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which oversees the Okefenokee, asking that the agency provide resources and expertise.
“A project that could have a devastating impact on a national treasure needs all agencies on board. Five permits now stand between Twin Pines and the Okefenokee,” the letter read.
These permits include an allowance to pump nearly 1.5 million gallons of water every day from the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to millions. Others would allow for industrial wastewater discharge, storm water discharge, and surface mining.
One major concern is the Okefenokee’s hydraulics. This powerful but delicate system pulls in water during times of flood and releases it into the wetlands during droughts.
Mining so near to Okefenokee could cause irreversible damage to the swamp’s fragile ecosystem. Mining could also expose the Okefenokee’s peat beds, which serve as massive carbon sinks.
The Senators wrote to “ask the USFWS to provide the Georgia Environmental Protection Division with added resources and support in reviewing all relevant applications. These decisions deserve careful environmental review and robust public participation because of the tremendous ecological value of the Okefenokee Refuge.”
The 635-square-mile Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the Earth’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems and a top contender to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known around the world for its biological diversity and serves as a sanctuary for an incredible array of species. Some of these species are on the brink of extinction. It is also a key economic driver in both Georgia and northeast Florida. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the area every year and contribute more than $64M to local economies.
May is American Wetlands Month, and it’s the ideal time to take action for our Southern wetland forests!
Call Governor Kemp to help us send a clear message: the Okefenokee belongs to us, and we must defend it!
Don’t stop there. There’s one additional action you can take.