Category Archives: Forestry

Why Pot Spring is closed 2020-07-20

Update 2020-07-30 Pot Spring still closed 2020-07-29.

WWALS member Scotti Jay wanted to know why Pot Spring Tract is closed, after he saw a closed sign a week ago.

[Pot Spring on WWALS WLRWT map]
Pot Spring on WWALS Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT) map

So I called Edwin McCook, Sr. Land Management Specialist, at the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD). He said it’s just routine thinning of planted pines. Since the entrance road is narrow and dirt, it’s difficult for vehicles to get in and out past logging trucks, so the road is closed for safety. The thinning should be done in a few days.

[Closed sign]
Photo: Scotti Jay, Closed sign

He also volunteered that SRWMD has hired security through Labor Day, due to recent episodes of vandalism. People have been arrested and charged for that lately, so please don’t tear up things. Continue reading

More than 30 groups organize to save Okefenokee Swamp 2020-07-14

See also Suwannee Riverkeeper’s call last month for people to contact the Georgia governor and other elected officials.

[Okefenokee Protection Alliance (OPA)]
Okefenokee Protection Alliance (OPA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (see also )

MORE THAN 30 GROUPS ORGANIZE TO SAVE OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

[OPA Logo]
OPA Logo

GEORGIA (July 14, 2020) More than 30 national, state, and local organizations have joined forces in the fight to protect the Okefenokee Swamp. The new coalition, known as the Okefenokee Protection Alliance (OPA), recently formed in response to a new and alarming threat to the Okefenokee in the form of proposed heavy mineral sands mining adjacent to the swamp.

In July 2019, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, submitted a permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) seeking authorization to mine the first phase of what would eventually become a 12,000-acre project abutting the southeast corner of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

After the Corps was deluged with letters opposing the project, Twin Pines withdrew that application and submitted a second application to excavate a roughly 900-acre first phase of the mine. The Corps is now weighing whether to approve that second application. Twin Pines must also secure permission from the state of Georgia.

“The new Okefenokee Protection Alliance is the first collaborative effort to have an exclusive focus on the protection of what is arguably our country’s healthiest remaining wetland of significance,” says Christian Hunt, Southeast Program Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Everyone came together because of Twin Pines’ permit application, but by design we intend to be active over the long-term and address the present threat that we are dealing with today, as well as future threats that stand to compromise the Okefenokee.”

This week, the Okefenokee Protection Alliance introduced a new website and began urging citizens to write Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, asking him to protect Southeast Georgia’s international natural treasure.

“Just as we have reached out to folks to call on the Corps, we are reaching out to folks to call on Governor Kemp because it is not just the Corps that has a say,” says Rena Peck, Executive Director of the Georgia River Network. “We want Governor Kemp to stand with his constituents and all the citizens in Georgia who are concerned about the mine and ask the Corps for an Environmental Impact Statement.”

The Okefenokee has a long history of support from Georgia leaders. A similar proposal to mine near the Swamp in the 1990s was stopped when Gov. Zell Miller and others spoke out against it; in the 1970s, W.S. “Bill” Stuckey, Jr. who represented the 8th District of Georgia in Congress, successfully fought to designate portions of the swamp as a National Wilderness Area.

Stuckey, now a resident of the Georgia coast, said recently, “I’m hopeful that Governor Kemp will step in to protect the Okefenokee Wilderness and stop the mine.”

OPA member organizations and federal agencies have expressed concerns that the mine could alter the hydrology of the area and impair the movement and storage of water within the swamp, the St. Marys and Suwannee rivers and the Floridan Aquifer.

This could lead to an increased risk of uncontrollable wildfires and impact access to the swamp for boating, fishing, birding, hunting and photography. Pollution from the mining operation could also impact the health of groundwater and surface water.

The Floridan Aquifer, which lies beneath the swamp, is the water source for all of south Georgia and most of Florida, and feeds many springs in the region, which are already adversely affected by overpumping. Thus, anything that affects the swamp or the aquifer could have far-reaching consequences.

Continue reading

Okefenokee Swamp more important than a titanium mine –Suwannee Riverkeeper on WKUB 105.1 FM

Update 2020-06-08: Part 2, Please ask your elected officials to stop strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp –Suwannee Riverkeeper on WKUB 105.1 FM.

The Okefenokee Swamp is a gem, locally, nationally, and internationally, too important to risk for profit by a few miners for paint. This is in a radio interview of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman by Brian Blount of WKUB 105.1 out of Blackshear, Pierce County, Georgia, north of Waycross and the Swamp.

[WKUB 105.1 FM]
WKUB 105.1 FM

Here is an introduction by Wade Scott, and my request for people to ask the Army Corps to deny the permit application by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, or at least to require an Environmental Impact Statement broad enough to cover the whole Swamp and the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, as well as the existing titanium mines in north Florida and south Georgia, plus the phosphate mines current and proposed in north Florida. Continue reading

Last day to comment to the Corps against strip mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-05-28

Today is the last public comment day to ask the Corps to stop a strip mine so close to the Okefenokee Swamp you can see both from a few hundred feet up.

[Distant 2019-11-23]
Drone aerials of titanium mine site near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-11-23.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Georgia Sen. Purdue last November,

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.”

FWS also spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

A few miners profiting by selling titanium dioxide for paint is nowhere near sufficient reason to risk the unique treasure that is the Okefenokee Swamp, which is also the headwaters of both the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

Please comment to the Corps

Today you can still ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop this strip mine:
To: CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Be sure to ask the Corps to deny the permit, or at least to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Or use the convenient comment form in this Action Alert by Waterkeeper Alliance:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/take-action-protect-okefenokee-swamp-from-a-titanium-mine/

Or this convenient comment form by Georgia River Network:
https://www.congressweb.com/GEAN/225

For far more information about this bad strip-mining proposal, see:
http://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Strip mine would endanger swamp 2020-05-22

In the Valdosta Daily Times today:

Signs at Exits 18 and 16 from I-75 say “Okefenokee Swamp, Stephen C. Foster State Park, 62 miles,” in hopes travellers will stay in Valdosta first.

[Okefenokee Swamp sign at I-75 exit 16.]
Okefenokee Swamp sign at I-75 exit 16.

The Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee River, a favorite paddling, birding, and fishing location of many people from here. The smoke from the 2017 West Mims Okefenokee fire reached Valdosta. Charlton County thanked Lowndes County for sending assistance.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that fire, some miners from Alabama bought up land southeast of the Swamp. Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, of Birmingham, AL, applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to strip mine titanium less than three miles from the Swamp.

After more than 20,000 public comments, the miners Continue reading

Any additional mining would be closer to the refuge. –FWS to Sen. Perdue 2019-11-21

“The initial project location is the farthest that mining activity would be from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) boundary and the Okefenokee Swamp. Any additional mining that occurs within the 12,000-acre permit area would be closer to the refuge. The northwest boundary of the permit area is within a half mile from the refuge boundary and 400 feet from the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp,” wrote the Fish and Wildlife Service to Senator David Purdue.

You can still comment to the Army Corps demanding an Environmental Impact Statement.

Minnie Lake, Shirley Kokidko, Gretchen Quarterman, 11:42:54,, Minnie Lake
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Okefenokee Swamp, 2017-12-10

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wrote that in response to an inquiry by Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Sen. Perdue also asked if FWS actually had jurisdiction over the proposed mining area, and FWS replied saying that it did have several kinds of oversight.

But FWS spelled out the bottom line: “It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to demonstrate what the extent of impacts of the project will be to surrounding natural resources.”

And the applicant still has not done that, not even in its second application.

No longer discussing the northern reaches of its landholdings much doesn’t mean Continue reading

Videos: No Build: Fire and Traffic at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11

Update 2020-04-18: Videos: Toll roads as prosperity drain and climate change, at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11.

Prescribed fire is important, said Eugene Kelly, Policy and Legislative Chair, Florida Native Plants Society. Four-lane I-10 instead, to preserve businesses along that road, said Jimmy Ray of Madison County. Here are WWALS videos of these two more speakers against the toll roads boondoggle in Madison County, Florida, February 11, 2020.

Meanwhile, apparently great minds think alike, because the idea WWALS member Janet Mikulski Messcher had a few weeks ago of asking the Florida governor to repurpose toll road moneys for pandemic relief was also published independently that same day by in the Sun-Sentinel by Susan L. Trevarthen of 1000 Friends of Florida.

Speakers, NextEra Quitman Solar II, Brooks County, GA 2019-08-05

The speakers against NextEra’s 150 megawatt Quitman II Solar on wooded wetlands were many and eloquent, from the very directly affected Brian Duck surrounded by solar panels to the strategic NextEra’s deadlines are not our deadlines, to the philosophical: Chad Stipe on Heritage and values, and Abigail Pope Sowell on care of the earth as our most pleasing responsibility.


      Surrounded by solar panels --Brian Duck
Brian Duck in the wheelchair on the left, about to tell the Commission how he is surrounded by NextEra’s proposed solar panels.

The speakers for let out some stunners, such as Deer will just move –Corey Haines, Biologist, Trees and roads no concern –Atty. Jonathan E. Wells, and Cancel out my wife –George Wallace.

My favorite was the allegedly impartial Daniel Geller of UGA who claimed Georgians import all our energy. I rebutted this by noting my 15 kilowatts of solar panels on my farm workshop, before telling the Commissioners some things they may not have known, about FPL in Florida and Sabal Trail burning in Quitman. Opposition attorney Waters also got Gellar to explicitly say he was not speaking for UGA.

Compliments to the Brooks County Commission for letting everybody who wanted to speak, with no restrictions on where they could be from (unlike Charlton County). There were, however, some irregularities: Continue reading

Videos: Decision, NextEra Quitman Solar II, Brooks County, GA 2019-08-05

Update 2019-08-17: WWALS videos of the speakers for and against.

The Public Hearing was so packed more people were standing outside. There was a decision, finally, but first…. The speakers against were eloquent and numerous, despite the initial confusion about could they give their 5 minutes to opposition attorney Jonathan P. Waters.

[UGA can confirm --Jonathan P. Waters]
UGA can confirm –Jonathan P. Waters

Answer: no, but the Chairman let several opposition speakers have the attorney speak for them anyway.

Various people spoke for NextEra’s proposed special exception for their 150 megawatt Quitman Solar II project in wooded wetlands.

[Economic developiment --Sherry Davidson, SGRC]
Economic developiment –Sherry Davidson, SGRC

Then the Brooks County Commission made the still-overpacked house wait through their regular agenda. Finally, Patrick Folsom moved Continue reading

NextEra wants Solar Farm on wooded wetlands in Brooks County, GA 2019-06-18

Update 2019-08-05: Decision.

NextEra wants a special exception for a 150 megawatt solar farm on wooded wetlands in Brooks County. The Brooks County Commission is holding a Public Hearing this Monday, August 5th. NextEra previously got approval for a 100 MW solar farm on already-cleared farmland. WWALS is all for solar, but not if it requires clearing forests or filling in wetlands, as it appears this application may involve.

When: 5PM, Monday, August 5, 2019

Where: 610 South Highland Street, Quitman, Georgia 31643

Event: facebook

[Rezoning Sign]
Rezoning Sign

According to the Brooks County Clerk yesterday, those who sign up before 5PM will get three minutes each to speak in the Public Hearing. See also the Documents.

Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 18 June 2019, Solar panel farm proposed in Brooks County, Continue reading