WAYCROSS — Clergy, scientists, local governments, and elected officials have spoken out for protecting the Okefenokee swamp from risky mining proposals. And now a poll of Georgia voters shows that they are in good company.
A clear majority (69%) of Georgians said that Georgia’s governor should take “immediate action” to protect the Okefenokee swamp from risky mining proposals.
“Across the state, from congregations in downtown Atlanta to the mountains to the coast, Georgians understand what’s at risk with proposals to mine near the Okefenokee,” Codi Norred, executive director of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, said in a news release. Last year GIPL released a letter signed by over 100 clergy asking local and federal leaders to protect the Okefenokee. “We have a spiritual imperative to protect this special place.”
“God created the Okefenokee,” the Rev. Antwon Nixon of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Folkston, the founder of Sowing Seeds Outside the Walls, said. “We can never get this special place back. I live just 10 miles away. And we need the help of everyone to protect it. It’s not a one-person army. We have a duty to do our part and spread this heightened spiritual awareness to others.”
And nearly as many people (68%) surveyed think Georgia’s state representatives and senators should finish the job and pass legislation to permanently protect the Okefenokee from risky mining operations in the future. Earlier this year, bipartisan legislation to protect the Okefenokee was introduced in Georgia’s General Assembly. The bill failed to receive a vote.
“Valdosta’s mayor, council, and citizens are united in supporting any and all level of protection for the awesome beauty and resource that is the Okefenokee,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said of the board that passed a resolution in 2021 urging protection of the Okefenokee.
A majority of Georgians (53%) have been to the Okefenokee or plan to visit the National Wildlife Refuge in the future.
“I personally don’t think a mine belongs near the pristine Okefenokee Swamp,” WWALS Watershed Coalition member John Melton of Fargo said. “My relatives have always been there. They were keepers of the swamp to manage the swamp for the benefits of the inhabitants, the ecosystems, and the animals that thrive there. We’ve had forest rangers in the family, we’ve been there with the fires, and when it’s been flooded. A mine is a danger to ruin the ecosystem that we have so long held in trust, we, the stewards of that land.”
The Georgia Water Coalition has an easy way for Georgians to make their voice heard to protect the Okefenokee. Visit www.protectgeorgia.org/okefenokee to send a message to candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.
In early September, Mason-Dixon Polling of Jacksonville, Fla., conducted a poll of 625 registered Georgia voters on behalf of the Georgia Water Coalition. Full polling results are available on the water coalition’s website: www.gawater.org/okefenokee-swamp.