The waters and wildlife of our country’s greatest wetland, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, are under assault.

Last month an Alabama-based mining company, Twin Pines Minerals, submitted an application to mine 12,000 acres that are located just outside the refuge’s southeastern boundary.

This represents yet another major threat to the Okefenokee. 

Twenty years ago DuPont attempted to establish a similar mine on the edge of the refuge. In a display of near-universal opposition, local communities, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the interior secretary fought what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered the “greatest threat” the swamp had ever faced. After years of bitter conflict DuPont shelved the project.

Like DuPont, Twin Pines is hoping to exploit a deposit of titanium found along the so-called Trail Ridge, an earthen barrier that governs water circulation and storage within the larger Okefenokee. If this happens, the Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that the damage to the entire 438,000-acre swamp “may be permanent.”

On an annual basis the refuge attracts 600,000 people, generates more than $64 million in local economic output and supports more than 700 jobs. According to refuge surveys, however, 50 percent of visitors said they would be less likely to return if the swamp’s water quality diminishes.

Considering Twin Pines’ track record, this is likely. Recently the company was cited in a Florida consent order for failing to maintain silt fences and discharging mining pollutants into a wetland without authorization.

With over a thousand species the Okefenokee is a world-class wildlife sanctuary. The people of Florida and Georgia must recognize the magnitude of this threat — and they must come to the Okefenokee’s defense once more.

To ensure that your voice is heard, send public comments by Sept. 12 to Holly Ross of the Army Corps of Engineers at holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.

Christian Hunt is the Southeast program associate for Defenders of Wildlife.