An Alabama company, Two Pines Minerals, is moving forward with a proposed 8,000-acre titanium strip-mine right next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The wetland, one of the largest intact freshwater ecosystems in the world and the headwaters of the Suwanee and St. Marys Rivers, provides habitat for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, wood storks, and indigo snakes. It’s also home to over 600 species of plants, including some of the little remaining longleaf pine forest in the south, as well as black bears, sandhill cranes, and american alligators.
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The proposed project could potentially destroy over 400 acres of wetland as well as threaten the refuge itself through adjacent habitat destruction, runoff, and noise and light pollution. Water pollution is a serious concern as well, as the surface water in the proposed mining area is connected directly to the river headwaters in the Okefenokee. The site of the project, known as Trail Ridge, is a hydrologically complex sandhill forming the eastern border of the Okefenokee. As well as being an integral component of the health of the greater Okefenokee area, the ridge is itself ecologically important and connected through groundwater to the refuge and surrounding wetlands. The modification of the Clean Water Act under the Trump administration means that the state of Georgia is responsible for all of the environmental impact statements and permitting for the mine, despite the refuge’s national protected status; this puts unaccustomed pressure on Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division. Join the call to deny the mining permit and keep the Okefenokee wild by sending a message through Protect Georgia or Defenders of Wildlife, or by emailing Georgia EPD Director Richard Dunn.