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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

Wildlife advocates urge stronger safeguards for Okefenokee

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Monday, April 8, 2024   

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia faces the prospect of a titanium dioxide mine near its border.

Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals aims to mine titanium and zirconium near Trail Ridge, sparking environmental concerns about potential ecological harm to the area.

Christian Hunt, senior federal lands policy analyst for the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, warned mining could threaten the ecosystem and its diverse species. He said the Okefenokee also holds broader significance, playing a critical role in fighting the effects of climate change.

"It will lower the water table of the swamp, which would fundamentally change the habitat for all sorts of species," Hunt pointed out. "If mining is to occur, periods of drought will be worsened in the swamp, exposing it to catastrophic fires."

Georgia's Environmental Protection Division granted draft permits to the mining company in February, allowing it to establish an 820-acre mine within a three-mile radius of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Defenders of Wildlife is among about 40 groups in a new Okefenokee Protection Alliance, bringing together thousands of voices against the project.

Ben Prater, Southeast program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said projects like this are often justified for national security or technological advancement. But he noted the potential harm to the Okefenokee outweighs the value of the minerals extracted.

"It's important to know that this mine is going after titanium dioxide, which is nothing more than a pigment we use to make our paint white, make our toothpaste white," Prater asserted. "It's in no way something that's so vital that we have to obtain that we put a world-class treasure like the Okefenokee at risk. "

Prater highlighted the uphill battle to safeguard the Okefenokee, citing the loss of crucial federal protections. He stressed it is more than opposition to the proposed mine and called for longer-term solutions.

"This is just the latest iteration of a threat that's been against the Okefenokee for decades," Prater contended. "What we're seeking and hoping to see is a permanent solution, encouraging the federal government to assert its reserved water rights to protect the integrity of the refuge."

The public comment period is set to close April 9. Defenders of Wildlife has added a link to its website so people can directly submit comments to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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