Daily Archives: February 15, 2021

Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List 2021-01-26

The U.S. National Park Service in January announced a 15-day comment period for nominating sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. We nominated the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, using testimony from some of WWALS members. I added the illustrations to this post of the WWALS nomination letter. And you can still help stop the titanium strip mine from locating too near the Swamp.

[Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers]
Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers


January 26, 2021

To: Jonathan Putnam
Office of International Affairs
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
jonathan_putnam@nps.gov
(202) 354-1809

Re: Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List, Docket Number NPS-WASO-OIA-31249 PIN00IO14.XI0000

Dear Mr. Putnam,

As you know, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) is on the UNESCO Tentative List for the United States, and thus is eligible for the U.S. to submit an ONWR nomination file.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5252/

[Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp]
Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp
in WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.
The purple line is the approximate actual divide between the Suwannee and St. Marys River watersheds in the Swamp, still being worked out with St. Marys Riverkeeper.

As Suwannee Riverkeeper and for our umbrella organization WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., I would like to encourage you to nominate ONWR this year. The vast majority of the Okefenokee Swamp is in the Suwannee River Basin, and some 85% of the outflow of the Swamp goes down the Suwannee River, which continues through Georgia and across Florida, where it is the subject of the state song, to the Gulf of Mexico.

[Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico]
Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico

WWALS member Bobby McKenzie sums it up from his perspective:

“As a world traveler for the past 20 plus years I must say that the Okefenokee Swamp holds its own when it comes to enchantment. I never would have thought I would have used the term enchantment to describe a swamp, but it happens to be the best one. My adventures have taken me to many places, each with their own charm and enchantment and history. I recall my first experience outside the United States, it was to the Chagos Archipelago part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The crystal-clear waters of the islands and the sanctity of the massive coconut crabs and the hawksbill sea turtles. Soon I found myself living in South Korea and experiencing the Buddhist temples embedded in the cliffs of the East Sea (more well known as the Sea of Japan) and the fishing islands of Sunyu-do in the yellow sea. At Jeju Island with its botanical gardens, lava tubes, and extinct volcano, I ascended the stairs of Mt Sanbanggulsa Temple where a spring drips from the ceiling pools into the temple cave and had a ceremonial sip. Years living in Europe showed me the awe of the Dolomites, the Carpathian Mountains, the Iron Gates, the Danube Delta and the switchback road of Transfagarasan. I have met the wonders of the Black Forest, I’ve skied Mount Blanc, Matterhorn, and the Zugspitze and swam in the ocean at Vilamoura in Algarve with its ocean caves. I dove the cliffs of Ischia and enjoyed the hot thermal springs of the Mediterranean. I’ve hiked miles through the Ardennes Forests and the ancient vineyards along the Mosel River. I have witnessed the famed White Cliffs of Dover, the puzzling Stonehenge, the North Sea, English Channel, and the beaches of Normandy. My time in Hawaii introduced me to the many natural phenomena such as the Makapu Tide Pools, the Queen’s Bath at Moku Nui, and the Mermaid Caves in Nanakuli. The pill boxes at Lanikai, Coco Head along with the Hidden Lagoon offered breath-taking views of the island of Oahu.

[Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd's Island]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd’s Island 2020-11-07

“There are many places I that I can recall that I have not mentioned. But all these places share one thing in common, they are amazing places that most people have never heard of or will see in their lifetime. They are all wonderous and inspiring places in their own right. This is true with the Okefenokee Swamp. I first learned of the Okefenokee as I was planning my move to South Georgia from Hawaii. I was searching for outdoor activities and the first thing I came across was a website talking about 120 miles of water trail and multiple camping options in the swamp. I immediately wanted to do this trip or at least a portion of it. I have since made a handful of trips into the swamp and learned about the history of Billy’s Island, the Sill, the timber operation and among other stories. My most recent trip into the swamp was with the WWALS Watershed Coalition. We paddled 8 miles out to camp at Floyds Island. The entire journey was just so peaceful. However, when we made the turn onto the green trail from Stephen C. Foster State Park, the swamp became extraordinarily enchanting. The cathedral-like tunnel that we paddled through for miles until we reached Floyd’s Island was like a portal to a fairytale dimension. In many instances, the colors of the fall, the canopy formation of the trees and the mirrored reflections were hypnotizing, we could have paddled this natural tunnel for hours and still want more. Upon reaching the camp site, everyone in our party was just magically delighted about the spiritual connection that the swamp bestowed upon us. The return trip the next day was even more mesmerizing. I never would have thought that I would have used the word enchanting to describe a swamp, but it was just that. I am glad to add the Okefenokee Swamp to my long list of must-see places. As with all of the places listed above, I never knew that I needed to experience them until I did. The Okefenokee is no different, it’s an enchanting place that you never knew you needed to experience.” Continue reading