Diario del proyecto Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

01 de diciembre de 2020

Rena Ann Peck: Save the Okefenokee Swamp

CALHOUN TIMES, NOVEMBER 26, 2020
GUEST COLUMNIST | RENA PECK
https://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/calhoun_times/rena-ann-peck-save-the-okefenokee-swamp/article_8fa68e0c-3003-11eb-adcc-539a44229d02.html

Okefenokee Hooded Pitcher Plant and Bidens gold wildflowers on peat hammock
Okefenokee's Hooded Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia minor var. okefenokeensis © Photographer: William Wise | iNat Observation: 65080214

Since 2018 when Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, first proposed mining for titanium along Trail Ridge adjacent to the Okefenokee Swamp, advocates from across the nation called on science to inform federal and state decisions about the proposal.

Of course, mining next to one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, a 438,000-acre expanse of wilderness, is inherently a bad idea, especially when the sought after mineral is neither rare nor hard to obtain. It is a common mineral that is readily available elsewhere, but the Okefenokee Swamp is uncommon — the largest blackwater wetland in North America and one that has been named a Wetland of International Importance.

If you are going to dig 50-foot pits in the ridge next to the swamp that regulates water levels in this natural treasure, you should understand how that activity might impact it. You gain that understanding through scientific study and inquiry.

Since 1972, the federal Clean Water Act has allowed us to use science to guide such decisions, but earlier this year, the Trump Administration knee-capped that federal law. It implemented a new rule that greatly reduced the kinds of streams and wetlands that are protected. The rule changed tossed science to the dumpster.

And at the proposed Twin Pines mining site, it did so with potentially devastating effects.

Roughly 400 acres that were previously protected under the Clean Water Act were suddenly removed from protection.

When Twin Pines discovered this, the company that for the past two years has continuously attempted to dodge any serious scientific studies of the mine’s impacts they were, no doubt, ecstatic. The feds granted a pass; no federal oversight would be required, nor would any scientific studies to inform decisions. The company has gone straight to acquiring the final necessary state permits.

Rightfully, the citizens responsible for sending some 60,000 letters and emails to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in opposition to this mine are indignant. So too are the scientists at federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that expressed concerns about the mine’s impact on the swamp.

The rule change effectively silenced science and these thousands of voices. Now Georgia’s leaders are all that stand in the way of potentially devastating and irreversible impacts to the swamp.

Gov. Brian Kemp, state leaders, and the state’s Environmental Protection Division must demand the science that the federal government has abandoned. While the feds might treat one of our seven natural wonders cavalierly, the state shouldn’t.

Georgians can let the governor know they want him to save the swamp by sending him a message through Georgia River Network’s online action alert at www.protectgeorgia.org/#/244.

Rena Ann Peck is the executive director of Georgia River Network and founder of Watershed Sustainability LLC.

Ingresado el 01 de diciembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de noviembre de 2020

Prescribed burn 122 acres around Okefenokee Swamp

USFWC Fire Southeast plans to set controled fires Friday
Danielle Uliano, Meteorologist and reporter
Published: November 20, 2020, 12:08 pm
https://www.news4jax.com/weather/2020/11/20/prescribed-burn-122-acres-around-okefenokee-swamp/

Burned cypress tree stump in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
© Photographer: William Wise | Website: www.okefenokee.photography

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Southeast plans to set the woods around the Okefenokee Swamp on fire Friday. This prescribed burn of 122 acres is designed to reduce the fuel load in the pine flatwoods that surround the swamp.

Why do these burns take place?
According to the USFWC Fire Southeast, “Frequent fire is necessary to maintain the open nature of the iconic longleaf pine-wiregrass habitat. Longleaf seeds that germinate in the bare, mineral-rich soil left behind after a burn.” These prescribed burns can also help trees release their seeds and feed certain animals. The endangered Key deer of Florida will actually feed on the fresh tufts of vegetation that emerge after the landscape is burned.

What steps are taken before the burn?
Safety first always. The USFWC Fire SE specialists will consider the following before the decision to burn, including weather, wind speed, nearby roads and communities, time of the year, and more when determining the right time and place for a prescribed burn.

Ingresado el 23 de noviembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de noviembre de 2020

Environmental Groups Set To Continue Fighting Mine Near Okefenokee

Environmental Groups Set To Continue Fighting Mine Near Okefenokee
October 27, 2020 2:29 PM |Updated: October 28, 2020 8:50 AM
By: Emily Jones
https://www.gpb.org/news/2020/10/27/environmental-groups-set-continue-fighting-mine-near-okefenokee

Old logging railroad pylons in Mixon`s Hammock; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Georgia USA
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Environmental groups said this week that they’re exploring options to keep fighting a mining project near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, now that the mining company plans to proceed without a federal permit. The Army Corps of Engineers recently determined that the wetlands on the tract of land to be mined no longer have federal protection under a Trump administration rule change.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging that rule change in federal court in South Carolina. The outcome will affect this mine, and projects across the country.

In the meantime, Bill Sapp of SELC said the mine near the Okefenokee still needs at least two state permits. “So we’re turning our attention to those, and we’re going to be talking to folks in the government and in the agency, and we’ll keep moving forward,” he said.

In order to proceed with mining for zinc and other heavy minerals, Twin Pines Minerals will need state permits for withdrawing groundwater and for operating a surface mine, Sapp said.

SELC is also working to get protections for the Okefenokee written into state law.
The federal change is known as the “replacement rule” and is part of broader rollbacks to environmental protections by the Trump administration. The rule says that ephemeral streams — temporary waterways that run when it rains — as well as wetlands adjacent to them are no longer protected under the Clean Water Act.

Ingresado el 02 de noviembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

30 de septiembre de 2020

Give Us a Sign!

Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Sign
© Photographer: William Wise | Website: www.okefenokee.photography
After miles of seemingly endless, boring driving through pine flat-woods, one hopes for a sign from heaven that the swamp is nearing. And that first “sign” is literally a large, wooden sign marking the entrance to the refuge! When you see that sign, you know the fun and exploration is about to begin within this wonderful refuge.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 as a “refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife”. The Swamp survived an attempt at draining in the late 1800’s and was logged extensively in the early 1900’s before becoming a refuge in 1937 by declaration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It encompasses 401,880 acres (628 square miles), roughly 35 miles north to south and 25 miles east to west.

~ Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography blog. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in the project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

Ingresado el 30 de septiembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de septiembre de 2020

Overnight Camping Permits Resume

I hesitate posting this to avoid the competition for a permit, but I can't keep back the good news! William
Minnies Lake Rest Dock, Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
© Photographer: William Wise

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/okefenokee/
September 21 at 5:32 PM ·
Who's ready??? The refuge will resume issuing overnight camping permits on Tuesday September 29th! We are excited to have a plan in place to allow for our visitors to have a safe, physically distanced trip into the Okefenokee this fall. Guests MUST call to obtain a permit - the phone line (912-496-3331) is open Tues - Thurs from 7AM - 10AM ONLY. Guests must have a profile in Recreation.gov to obtain a permit.

Ingresado el 28 de septiembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de septiembre de 2020

UGA working to conserve, protect native alligators

UGA TODAY, August 28, 2020 by Kelly Simmons
See full article here: https://news.uga.edu/uga-working-protect-native-alligators/

The Okefenokee Swamp project focuses on management, education efforts

Okefenokee Swamp Bull Alligator Basking
© Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 31345492

A partnership between University of Georgia researchers and the Okefenokee Swamp Park focuses on conservation and education efforts needed to maintain the swamp’s native alligator population, which is vital to the economic vitality of the region.

On Aug. 27, UGA’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and the Okefenokee Swamp Park signed a commitment to continue its Alligator Education and Research Project, work that informs the OSP on conservation and management of the swamp, provides a better understanding of alligators and enhances wildlife education.

“The American alligator remains a conservation concern for a number of reasons, including human persecution and loss of native habitat,” said ecologist Kimberly Andrews, a faculty member with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “It is important for us to understand how these reptiles are adapting to survive in a human-dominated environment.”

Using satellite tags and cameras, Andrews and her team at UGA have tracked seven adult alligators in the swamp, observing interactions between the sexes and age classes, courtship between males and females, maternal care and interaction with other species, such as bears or otters.

So far, their research has shown that adult females and their guarded young, ages 1 to 3 years, are typically the most visible while the males are on the move and the mid-size subadults are more covert. Alligator activity and their visibility in the swamp is influenced by social structure and the presence of dominant individuals and changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature and rainfall.

Alligators vital to ecosystem
Alligators are apex predators, consuming a diversity of food sources and regulating prey populations. At the swamp, researchers have seen that a single adult alligator may eat prey that range in size from a moth to a deer. When alligators are lost from a system, this balance is lost and the ecosystem instability impacts many other species, including people who rely on predators to manage prey populations, such as deer, that pose risk to our safety when overabundant.

Alligators are the engineers of their economy, creating habitat that is used by other smaller animals. During drought, alligators create “wallows” or use den sites that retain water after it becomes scarce in other areas. These wallows can be critical for breeding habitat for frogs. The loss of alligators in some ecosystems has contributed to subsequent declines in amphibian populations in many of their habitats where they have been removed.

The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America, serving as the headwaters of the St. Marys and Suwanee rivers. Most of the swamp is located in Southeastern Georgia and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the state. Protected largely by the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Wilderness, the swamp has an array of habitats including cypress swamps, peat bogs, marshes, open lakes and wooded hammocks. The diversity of ecosystems encompasses an assortment of over 620 plant species (including four carnivorous plant species), 39 fish, 37 amphibian, 64 reptile, 234 bird and 50 mammal species.

Ingresado el 14 de septiembre de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de julio de 2020

Okefenokee Fall Photography Workshop

The refuge is excited to be hosting a Fall Photography Workshop with John Reed! Mark your calendars...Saturday November 14, 2020 from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Join award winning local nature photographer, and longtime workshop leader, John Reed for an informative and enjoyable day at the renowned Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Register in advance by emailing Okefenokee@fws.gov.
Scary large alligator in swamp swimming at camera
Okefenokee Alligator © Photographer: William Wise | iNat observation: 51934272

Ingresado el 27 de julio de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de julio de 2020

DO NOT FEED THE ALLIGATORS!!!

Throughout the Stephen C Foster campground in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, there are signs warning against the feeding of wildlife. These warnings are no joke. The dangers of tossing food to wildlife should now be common sense (hopefully). Feeding of wildlife such as bears and alligators causes them to associate humans with food, and that can lead to future adversarial contacts. Typically, it is the animal that eventually loses out. They have to be drugged and relocated, or even killed.
Wildlife Feeding Strictly Prohibited sign
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com
The Savannah River Ecology Lab writes, “Don't feed alligators. This is a most important rule as feeding alligators threatens the safety of both people and animals. Providing food for these wild animals (that are naturally afraid of humans) not only makes them bolder and encourages them to seek out people, it also alters their natural diet in an unhealthy way. Feeding alligators trains them to associate humans with foods. Feeding alligators is punishable by law with fines jail time.”

For all of those reasons, I take seriously the admonition to not feed the Okefenokee wildlife… except for a couple of species. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to not feed the mosquitoes and flies! No amount of repellent seems to keep these little bloodsucking critters from feeding on your flesh if you visit the Okefenokee in late spring and summer.


Do you love the Okefenokee? Join the iNat Okefenokee Photography Project and follow the Okefenokee Photography Wordpress blog at https://okefenokee.photography/. If you have an Okefenokee blog post or journal, message me the URL through my iNat profile page and I’ll post it in this project. Thanks for contributing and for be a lover of this great piece of earth, the Okefenokee Swamp! William

Ingresado el 15 de julio de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

05 de julio de 2020

Certified Dark Sky Park

Dark Sky Over Stephen C. Foster
Source: https://gastateparks.org/StephenCFoster
Stephen C. Foster State Park is a certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association. Located in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp, with minimal light pollution, guests can experience some of the darkest skies in the southeast. Stand beneath a sky full of stars and see the Milky Way stretched out above you while watching for the occasional meteor streaking across the night sky.
Waxing Crescent Moon Phase
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com
It is worth considering a few things while planning your trip if your goal is to see a dark night sky. Environmental factors and seasons can affect what you see and how well you see. Ensure when you are planning your trip that you consider them.

One of the most important factors to consider is the position and phase of the moon. If the moon is up and the phase is anything greater than a thin crescent, the moonlight will drown out many of the dimmer objects in our night sky. If a full moon has risen, you will not see anything but the brightest stars and planets. Try to plan your trip around a new moon or when the moon will not rise overnight for the best night sky viewing. Clouds will also degrade your viewing experience so consider weather conditions as well.

Seasons will determine what objects will be visible. The summer night sky and winter night sky appear quite different so make sure if you want to see a specific object that it will be up when you plan to observe. One of the most popular night sky objects people come to see is the Milky Way. The Milky Way in the Northern Hemisphere is best observed in the summer months. This is when our view of the densest, brightest portion of the Milky Way galaxy, our home galaxy, is at its best. Best viewing times vary throughout the season.

Dress appropriately for the weather conditions during your planned observation time and be respectful of those around you who may also be trying to observe. Ensure all white lights are turned off. This will help your eyes, and those of your fellow observers, adjust to the darkness. Any interruption of white light causes this process to start over. Full adjustment can take as much as 40 minutes.

Enjoy viewing one of the darkest skies in the southeast. The Okefenokee’s isolation gives you a great opportunity to see a truly dark night sky, something that has become increasingly hard to find. Come prepared, respect those around you and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The park offers night programs throughout the year. Check the online schedule to view upcoming programs.

Ingresado el 05 de julio de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de junio de 2020

USFWS - COVID Update on Operations

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
https://www.facebook.com/okefenokeewildliferefuge/
June 26 at 4:45 PM ·
COVID Update on Operations:
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is excited to announce that our hours of operations for the Main Entrance - Suwannee Canal Recreation Area will resume our seasonal hours beginning tomorrow, Saturday June 27. See the details from the press release below...
Canoe and paddle with Okefenokee Swamp Stephen C Foster sticker
© Photographer: William Wise | Agency: Dreamstime.com
Beginning Saturday June 27, the refuge will resume opening at 30 minutes before sunrise and closing at 7:30 p.m. daily. Entrance fee collection has resumed – a 7-day pass is only $5 or a refuge-specific annual pass can be purchased for $15. The onsite concession, Okefenokee Adventures, is offering modified services at this time. Information on services and hours of operation for the concession can be found on their website www.okefenokeeadventures.com or by calling 912-496-7156.

In addition, the following areas continue to be open and available for public access: Swamp Island Drive
Hiking Trails, Chesser Island Boardwalk, Chesser Island Homestead grounds, Boat ramp access to water trails for day-use, Kingfisher Landing, Suwannee River Sill, The Pocket.

The health and safety of our visitors, volunteers, and employees remains our number one priority and the following facilities or areas remain closed with no projected date of resuming these operations at this time: Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center, Overnight Campsites (permit issuance has been suspended until further notice)

Ingresado el 29 de junio de 2020 por williamwisephoto williamwisephoto | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario