Mining on Trail Ridge

ACT NOW: Support the Okefenokee Swamp UNESCO Nomination

The Okefenokee Swamp is the headwater of our St. Marys River and is a treasure of local, state, and global importance. The Okefenokee has been included in this year’s list of nominees for UNESCO World Heritage Site designation (“World Heritage List”). We encourage you to send in your comments supporting this nomination. Email your comments to by June 28. You can also mail them to Jonathan Putnam (Office of International Affairs, National Park Service, 1849 C Street NW, Room 2415, Washington DC 20240) or call (202) 354-1809.

Learn more about the nomination and comment process here.

Ways you can engage:

1) Submit a comment. Suggested topics to include:

  • Urge the National Park Service to promptly prepare and submit a nomination for Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge inscription on the World Heritage List.
  • Highlight Okefenokee’s “outstanding universal value” by describing some of its best attributes, for example:
    • The Okefenokee Swamp is one of the largest hydrologically intact freshwater swamps in the world.
    • Unlike many other significant wetland areas, the Okefenokee Swamp is the source of two rivers (St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers), rather than their recipient therefore the health of the Swamp impacts the health of its downstream river ecosystems
    • The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has extensive and essentially undisturbed peat deposits, which store valuable information about environmental conditions over the past 5,000 years and also act as a carbon sink.
    • The Refuge is renowned worldwide for its diversity of amphibians and reptiles, mammals, birds, fishes, and invertebrates, as well as an estimated 1,000 species of moths.
    • The Refuge is home to many rare and imperiled species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, Sherman’s fox squirrel, round-tailed muskrat, Bachman’s sparrow, and Florida sandhill crane.
    • The Refuge offers prime, unfragmented habitat for Florida panther reintroduction.
    • The Refuge is protecting and restoring native longleaf pine communities, which were once widespread across the southeastern U.S. but now only remain on 3% of their historical range.
  • Briefly explain that Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge meets the integrity and protection standards because it encompasses 92% of the Okefenokee Swamp and enjoys federal legal protections as a National Wildlife Refuge and Congressionally designated Wilderness Area.
  • If applicable, express your or your organization’s willingness and ability to support the Refuge through the nomination process (either through resources, good will, etc.).


2) Spread the word. Encourage others to submit comments to show local, national, and global importance and value of the Okefenokee Swamp.

St. Marys Riverkeeper summary of public comments is available now, as well as the full comments that were submitted to the Georgia EPD. 

On January 19, 2023, Georgia Environmental Protection Division opened a 60-day public comment period seeking YOUR input on whether or not the state should issue a permit for a proposed heavy mineral sand mine on Trail Ridge – 3 miles from the Okefenokee Swamp and 5 miles from the St. Marys River. 

Public comment for the Mining Land Use Plan (MLUP) closed Monday March 20 at 4:30p. 

St. Marys Riverkeeper was joined in the opposition of this mine as presented to GA EPD by fellow waterkeepers in Florida and Georgia. Read Waterkeepers Florida’s TPM Letter (WKFL) and Riverkeepers of Georgia TPM Letter (WKGA).

PRESS RELEASE – St. Marys Riverkeeper Opposes Mining Permit

Watch our Lunch and Learn webinar series “For Our River” to learn more about the potential impacts this mining project may have on our St. Marys River watershed. 

Twin Pines Minerals is an Alabama-based company looking to mine along Trail Ridge, at the headwaters for River Styx (flows to the Okefenokee Swamp) and Boone Creek (flows to the St. Marys River). Mining along Trail Ridge could compromise the habitat the Swamp and the St. Marys River offers to endangered species like the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Wood Storks, Eastern Indigo Snakes, and the Atlantic Sturgeon.

A new federal regulation called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule went into effect June 22, 2020. The rule changed the way wetlands are defined in the Clean Water Act so that federal permits and environmental impact statements will no longer be needed before building near certain waterways. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled that because of this change, it lacked jurisdiction over 376 acres of land within the proposed mining site, so Twin Pines can proceed if the Georgia Environmental Protection Division approves five permits.

Parts of the refuge’s Trail Ridge are rich in titanium and other heavy minerals. In the past, attempts to mine there have failed due to concerns about the Okefenokee. Titanium is a strong, lightweight mineral used to build everything from missiles and jet planes to orthopedics and consumer electronics. The Georgia mine will use the titanium to make pigments that whiten cosmetics, paint and other consumer products.

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