A proposed mining project near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge poses a risk for the more than 400,000-acre protected area.
According to conservationists, a proposed mining project near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge poses a risk for the more than 400,000-acre protected area.
The refuge is the largest wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi and it protects thousands of species, according to the Public News Service.
A Trump administration rollback of federal wetland and waterway protections removed a hurdle for Twin Pines Minerals, which intends to mine roughly 8,000 acres of the Trail Ridge for titanium. According to Christian Hunt, southeast representative for Defenders of Wildlife, the Trail Ridge is a natural dam that ensures water is stored and flowing.
"It would result in a degradation of air and water quality," said Hunt. "It would impact the wilderness and recreational appeal of one of our last great places here in the Southeast."
According to Hunt, he Okefenokee is the last self-sustaining, large-scale wetland in the lower 48 states. Other wetlands, such as the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina and the Everglades in Florida, have been compromised by industrial and agricultural development, reported Public News Service.
Since the rollbacks removed protections for roughly 400 acres of Okefenokee-adjacent wetlands previously covered under the Clean Water Act, Twin Pines' mining project requires no federal oversight, but they do still need state permits. According to Hunt, the company has a history of environmental noncompliance.
The Okefenokee, located in North Florida and Southeastern Georgia, is among the top ten most-visited wildlife refuges in the country. The site is an economic anchor, contributing millions of dollars to the four counties surrounding it, including Baker County in Florida.
Hunt urged concerned citizens to reach out to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).