Sen. Ossoff Reiterates Formal Opposition to Strip Mining Near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Folkston, Ga. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is continuing his years-long push to protect the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Yesterday, Sen. Ossoff submitted a comment to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) opposing permits for a strip mine near the Okefenokee during the agency’s public comment period, which concluded yesterday.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the agency received over 77,000 comments during the 2-month period.

In his submission, Sen. Ossoff pointed to urgent analyses and warnings from leading environmental scientists and officials, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), that warn of potential harm to the wetland’s ecosystem, the lack of adequate preparation for drought conditions, and severe damage to the area’s air and water quality.

“Simply put: the Okefenokee is irreplaceable. It is too precious to risk. Should EPD approve this mine, there is a clear and credible risk of severe and irreversible long-term damage to the Refuge,” Sen. Ossoff wrote to Georgia EPD Director Jeff Cown. “To permit this mining operation risks irreversible damage to an irreplaceable natural resource beloved by Georgians.”

The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America. It contains a National Wildlife Refuge and U.S. Wilderness Area and is one of Georgia’s top sites for outdoor recreation and tourism, drawing more than 600,000 visitors per year, and one of Georgia’s most beloved and environmentally significant wild places.

The Okefenokee holds significant cultural importance to Native American tribes, including the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The Refuge contains at least 74 Native American mounds.

Sen. Ossoff continues his strong advocacy to protect the Okefenokee.

Last October, Sen. Ossoff delivered a $1.6 million Federal grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to improve safety and connectivity within the park, while also taking steps to improve preservation measures at the campgrounds within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Last September, following Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan push, the National Park Service announced it intends to nominate the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge for UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.

Citing warnings from leading scientists and experts, Sen. Ossoff submitted in February 2023 his formal opposition to the proposed strip mine next to the Okefenokee Swamp during the previous round of public comments.

In September 2022, at Sen. Ossoff’s invitation, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland joined him to survey the Refuge and meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials on the refuge’s conservation status and environmental risks. They also heard directly from local leaders about the importance of protecting the refuge for the communities in the area.

Click aquí to read Sen. Ossoff’s public comment submission to the Georgia EPD.

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