Georgia religious leaders call on authorities to spare ‘holy’ Okefenokee from mine
A group of more than 100 religious leaders in Georgia have opposed a mining proposal near the Okefenokee swamp and are calling on religious and local decision-makers to reject any mining plans near the swamp.
Dozens of religious leaders, including Christian ministers, rabbis and imams, added their names to a letter en route to the governor, US state senators and local county commissioners. The chairman and vice-chairman of the Charlton County Commission are ministers.
Reverend Tony Lankford, who is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Gainesville and originally from Georgia, said he signed the letter after the swamp left a deep impression on him about a year ago when he took his son on an overnight camping trip. .
“It’s such a unique part of our state,” Lankford said. “There was just something about me when I came back from that trip – that we need to protect this as much as possible, that capitalism cannot drive the Okefenokee swamp. There has to be more and with a preservation mindset so that my son can take his son and my grandson can take his son and have the same experience.
The lure of new jobs in a rural corner of the state won over supporters hoping for an economic boost. But the project is controversial, with Alabama-based company Twin Pines Minerals planning to mine for titanium dioxide along the edge of the wildlife sanctuary.
Environmentalists called the proposal an unnecessary threat to a prized natural wonder home to more than 600 plant species as well as rare animals like indigo snakes, gopher turtles and wood storks – features that have made the area filled with alligators a tourist destination for wildlife. lovers.
Georgian religious leaders now want to add their voice to those calling on the state to reject the proposal. A representative from Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, which is a faith group that coordinated the letter, plans to deliver the letter to the Charlton County Commission and read it aloud during the public comment portion of the meeting. Thursday’s commission at Folkston.
The letter refers to the Okefenokee Swamp as “a particularly holy and sacred space”.
From the letter: “As people of faith, our values call us to seek justice for our neighbors and to take care of the Earth. The proposed desecration of the Okefenokee Swamp cannot be authorized. Our faith inspires us to boldly proclaim our opposition to this project as we advocate for righteous policies and practices that allow all of Creation to prosper. “
The company unveiled its plans more than two years ago and is still in the process of acquiring the necessary state permits from the state’s Environmental Protection Division to move forward. The company submitted additional information to EPD last month which is currently under review.
“Once the review is complete, EPD will determine if further comment is needed,” division spokesperson Kevin Chambers said Wednesday.
The company wants to start by performing a mining demonstration along Trail Ridge, which is a watershed between the marsh and the St. Marys River. But he signaled aspirations for a much larger footprint near America’s largest wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi River.
Codi Norred, executive director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, said the group tries to emphasize the moral responsibility of being good stewards of God’s work.
“It truly is one of the wildest places there is,” said Norred, recalling an overnight paddle trip a few years ago. “It’s like being transported into how God could have created creation before humans were here. It is a holy place.
Most of the elected leaders surrounding the project – including the governor, who said in april that he was going to stay neutral and “let the process unfold” – speak openly of their faith, Norred noted.
Senator Raphael Warnock, who is a pastor, and Senator Jon Ossoff, who is the state’s first Jewish senator, have been pushing for further examination of the proposal earlier this year.
Norred said he was disappointed his group’s attempts to reach out to ministers in the local county commission ahead of Thursday’s meeting came to nothing.
“It is the people of faith in all the positions who can do anything to stop this mine and are accomplices until they do something,” he said, calling the mining proposal a “task to be done.” creation”.
“If you are a person of faith from any tradition who has a commitment to creation, do all you can to call who you can in the decision-making process and ask them as a person of faith. to think about not doing it, ”he said. noted.
Charlton President James Everett did not respond to a call for comment. Vice President Alphya Benefield declined to comment when she was reached on Tuesday afternoon. Both are pastors.