Tag Archives: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

FWS photographer with Suwannee Riverkeeper, WWALS jon boat and outboard @ Fargo Ramp 2024-04-25

Last Thursday, a photographer came to take some pictures for a story that you will see later.

Renee Bodine is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and WWALS swamper Shirley Kokidko met her at Fargo Ramp.

A mile up the Suwannee River on the Suwannee Riverkeeper vessel, Renee took pictures of a twisty tree and some blooming tupelo trees.

[FWS Photographer, Fargo Ramp 2024-04-25, Suwannee Riverkeeper jon boat, and outboard, Suwannee River]
FWS Photographer, Fargo Ramp 2024-04-25, Suwannee Riverkeeper jon boat, and outboard, Suwannee River

The Suwannee River was at 11.9 feet (102.9 NAVD88) on the Fargo Gauge. High enough for the ramp to be underwater, and the parking lot in a foot of water next to it. The ramp to the defunct Visitors Center was also underwater.

Here are some videos:
https://youtu.be/rYDSMO14TkU Continue reading

Huge win for Waterkeepers: Court stops FDEP assumption of water permitting, and countersuit 2024-02-15

In a rare huge win for conservationists, on February 15, 2024, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Miami Waterkeeper, and co-plaintiffs won their case to stop the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) from assuming wetlands permitting.

[Florida panther, Waterkeepers Florida]
Florida panther, Waterkeepers Florida

FDEP assumption was always a bad idea. “The toxic algae blooms that now plague Florida are a direct result of the state’s decades-long failure to protect our waterways from wildlife-choking pollution,” Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Now the state wants to make it even easier to dredge and fill wetlands that help filter these pollutants.”

Here’s the original lawsuit.

Jim Saunders, WUSF & News Service of Florida, February 19, 2024, A judge sides with environmentalists in wetlands permitting shift,

In a win for environmental groups, a U.S. district judge Thursday ruled that federal officials did not follow required steps in 2020 before shifting permitting authority to Florida for projects that affect wetlands.

Washington, D.C.-based Judge Randolph Moss, in a 97-page decision, found that actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the Endangered Species Act. Moss vacated the approval of the shift to the state.

Continue reading

Ask the Georgia Legislature to act while GA-DNR keeps passing the buck about mining near the Okefenokee Swamp 2023-01-27

GA DNR keeps passing the buck about the proposal to strip mine for titanium within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, by miners from Alabama, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC. The Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers and it interchanges surface water with groundwater all the way down to the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink.

Please go ahead and send in your comment on the Mining Land Use Plan.

And ask your Georgia House Representative to sign on to HB 71, the Okefenokee Protection Act. That bill will not stop this permit application, but it would stop further expansion of that mine and any other mines on the east side of the Swamp.

[Trail Ridge Land LLC]
Trail Ridge Land LLC
Land the Charlton County Tax Assessors show owned by Trail Ridge Land LLC.
The northwest corner buts right up against the Swamp.

Floridians, you can comment. And you can ask your Georgia friends and relatives to ask their statehouse members to sign on to HB 71.

Back in September, Georgia DNR Board Chair Bill Jones said Continue reading

Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff advocates for protection of the Okefenokee Swamp 2022-05-25

Like Sen. Ossoff, you can help stop a strip mine proposed far too near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers, and the mine sits on top of the Floridan Aquifer from which we all drink.

Senator Jon Ossoff is advocating for the protection of the Okefenokee swamp, Kyra Purvis, WFXL, Wednesday, May 25th 2022,

[Sen. Ossoff at the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-05-14]
Sen. Ossoff at the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-05-14

Senator Jon Ossoff is advocating for the protection of the Okefenokee swamp and its national wildlife refuge.

The swamp is currently being looked at by Twin Pines Minerals LLC as a place for titanium mining.

Ossoff is asking for a joint effort between both parties and is calling on all environmental agencies to protect one of Georgia’s most precious natural resources.

“Our state may lose the Okefenokee swamp, this precious natural resource, unless EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the Army Corps and Georgia’s environmental protection division take action to stop it,” said Ossoff in his call to action, “Overwhelmingly the people of Georgia and of the local community treasure the Okefenokee swamp. But I’m sounding the alarm because we need an all hands-on deck effort now to bring the pressure to bear necessary to save the Okefenokee swamp from destruction.”

Ossoff says he has Continue reading

Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09

Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s positive answer to Suwannee Riverkeeper’s question about the Okefenokee Swamp was covered by the local newspaper of record.

[VDT, Ossoff, Warnock]
VDT, Ossoff, Warnock

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 6 May 2021, Ossoff: Millions for S.Ga. schools,

During Ossoff’s visit, Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman asked about the proposed heavy mineral sands mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge is the largest east of the Mississippi and carries a hefty amount of wildlife biodiversity. The mine could potentially impact the refuge’s native species, basin hydrology and overall integrity.

Continue reading

Senator Jon Ossoff: Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource 2021-05-06

Update 2021-05-09: Coverage in the local newspaper of record, Sen. Ossoff tries new Valdosta public transit; answers questions about Okefenokee Swamp –Valdosta Daily Times 2021-05-09.

“The Okefenokee is a sacred natural resource. It is a wildlife refuge that must be protected,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, responding to a question by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, today, in Valdosta, Georgia.

You can use the Waterkeeper Alliance Action Alert, to send a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) asking it to reject the permit applications for that site; such messages will be forwarded to Georgia elected officials, including U.S. Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Valdosta on demand, City Hall, Senator Jon Ossoff on Okefenokee, Valdosta Mayor, Council, Staff, Sen. Ossoff]
Valdosta on demand, City Hall, Senator Jon Ossoff on Okefenokee, Valdosta Mayor, Council, Staff, Sen. Ossoff

Here is the WWALS video: Continue reading

Four U.S. Senators ask U.S. FWS to assist GA-EPD against mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-04-28

“Georgia’s senators want the federal government to get involved in the state’s review of a mine proposed at the doorstep of the East Coast’s largest wildlife refuge.”, James Marshall, E&E News, 30 April 2021, Senators worry about mine project near Okefenokee.

And you can still use the Waterkeeper Alliance action alert to Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp by sending a message to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division asking them to reject Twin Pines Minerals’ five permit applications, or at least to go through a full process to review them:
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures]
Letter, Mine site, Senators, Signatures

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock also got Senators Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Tom Carper from Delaware to co-sign their letter of Wednesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s good they’re doing what many of us asked all the candidates to do in the Georgia Senate race last year.

Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 29 April 2021, U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff urge scrutiny of Okefenokee mining proposal.

The economy was on Warnock’s mind last week when he released a statement about the mining near the Okefenokee.

“I am a fierce champion for strengthening rural economies, and finding ways to ensure rural Georgians don’t just survive, but thrive,” he wrote. “At the same time, the Okefenokee is integral to the local ecology and economy, and we owe it to our planet and the communities that depend on the swamp to ensure its health and integrity for future generations. As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, I look forward to working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and engaging their expertise in these on-going conversations to make sure we protect this cherished Georgia landmark as we work to bring more good-paying jobs to our rural communities.”

Well, that’s good to hear. I look forward to the local Chambers and all the organizations concerned about the Swamp finding some businesses for Charlton County and other rural south Georgia and north Florida counties.

The Letter (PDF)

Continue reading

Alligator snapping turtle threatened status: another reason to protect the Okefenokee Swamp 2021-04-07

Let’s put the end of the story up top:

John Quarterman, who is the Suwannee Riverkeeper with the WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., said he hopes potential new federal protections will highlight the need to shield part of the turtle’s potential habitat from a proposed mining project near the Okefenokee Swamp. The [Georgia] state Department of Natural Resource[s] is weighing whether to issue mining permits to Twin Pines [Minerals LLC of Alabama].

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is included in the turtle’s range outlined by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It’s yet another reason to protect the swamp,” Quarterman said this week.

Please send your comments to Georgia officials asking them to thoroughly review and then reject the five permit applications from the miners:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/help-suwannee-riverkeeper-save-okefenokee-swamp/

Suwannee alligator snapping turtle
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) listed the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle as State Threatened in September 2018.

Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder, 7 April 2021, Feds propose protection for hefty Suwannee alligator snapping turtle,

A rare prehistoric looking turtle only found in south Georgia and north Florida might soon gain federal protection after struggling to rebound.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that it has proposed listing the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The announcement kicks off a public comment period that will wrap up this June.

The turtle is the largest found in north American rivers, with some males weighing in at more than 200 pounds. The Suwannee gator snapper makes its home in the waterways flowing through Tifton and Valdosta before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal agency reported Tuesday that only about 2,000 of the turtles remain across the two states. The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle was only recently split off as its own species.

“The science that the Service has gathered on this turtle indicates Continue reading

Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp

To send your comments to Georgia officials, follow this link:
https://waterkeeper.org/news/help-suwannee-riverkeeper-save-okefenokee-swamp/

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

Julia Widmann, Waterkeeper Alliance, March 18, 2021, Help Suwannee Riverkeeper Save Okefenokee Swamp,

Today, you can take action to help Suwannee Riverkeeper protect Okefenokee Swamp and the surrounding community in Southern Georgia and northern Florida from the risk of dangerous mining pollution.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is home to the beloved blackwater Okefenokee Swamp, a Wetland of International Importance and a proposed World Heritage Site. Okefenokee Swamp is an ecologically diverse wetland, loved by boaters, fishers, and birders, as well as alligators and blue herons, and hunters on nearby property. It’s an important tourist attraction for members of the public all across the country and provides great economic benefits to the local area. Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman has helped lead the way in protecting this special place.

In 2019, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, an Alabama-based company, first proposed a titanium mine beside the swamp. Twin Pines’ proposed mine poses dangerous risks Continue reading

Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, November 17, 2020 — Once again, the Okefenokee Swamp features in the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen, “the worst offenses to Georgia’s water.” The Swamp and the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers and the Floridan Aquifer are still threatened by a strip mine, but this time only Georgia can stop it, with your help.

[Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site]
Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site

Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, rena@garivers.org).

They also recently observed the mine site that threatens our ecosystems and drinking water for private profit. [TPM mine site with ONWR on left]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, TPM mine site with ONWR on left

They met again that same weekend on the Suwannee River in the Okefenokee Swamp with forty paddlers, experiencing the fragile natural beauty that makes the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge a great economic benefit to both Georgia and Florida.

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

The entire text of the Okefenokee Dirty Dozen item is below. Also below is how you can help.

This year’s Dirty Dozen report includes the following: Continue reading