Georgia faith leaders pray for Okefenokee Swamp’s protection, push for mining restrictions

Faith leaders gathered at the Okefenokee Swamp on Wednesday, Dec. 6 for a prayer vigil urging Georgia lawmakers to enact “The Okefenokee Protection Act." (Justin Taylor/The Current)

Representatives from Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faith communities across Georgia gathered at the Okefenokee Swamp on Wednesday for a prayer vigil urging lawmakers to enact Georgia House Bill 71, “The Okefenokee Protection Act,” as part of their upcoming legislative session. The bill would restrict the issuance of mining permits on nearby Trail Ridge.

That’s where Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals is seeking to mine for titanium dioxide. HB 71 would not apply to Twin Pines’ application, which is already in process. While the mining company insists its activity will not harm the swamp, scientists, including academic hydrologists from several states, disagree. They fear the mining could alter the flow of water in the Okefenokee, the largest wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi.

The vigil was organized by Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit organization that aims to mobilize Georgians of faith toward environmental action.

“We cannot continue to let any companies big or small, come in and dangle things in front of us and take away the very essence of what we have,” said Rev. Antwon Nixon, pastor at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Folkston, who grew up nearby and led the vigil. “This place is God created. And God has ordained us to take care of it and to take our very part in making sure that we do that.”

The faith leaders who gathered signed a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns asking for the denial of the Twin Pines permits and the passage of the Okefenokee Protection Act.

“Faith leaders and communities they represent are especially vital to protecting sacred spaces in Georgia, like the Okefenokee,” Beth Remmes, of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light said in a prepared statement. “When clergy speak about the call to care for our common home, people listen.”

This story was provided by WABE content partner The Current.