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September 24, 2022 2:50 pm

Opinion

Okefenokee: A Personal Reflection | Opinion

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From 1996 through 2002, I covered DuPont Co.’s scheme to mine titanium next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge as the environmental reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Now — as I reflect on those days and on the current Twin Pines Minerals proposition from more than two decades and 2,867 miles away — I am reminded of something reporters learn early on: some stories never really go away.

I am dismayed that the fate of this incredible resource is, once again, up for grabs and am troubled that this jewel of Georgia and wetland of international importance still needs permanent protection at its boundaries. However, the sad fact is the seeds for the current plot were foreshadowed in that earlier chapter. Shame on all of us for letting it get to this again.

My relationship with the Okefenokee Swamp is long and winding, much like the rivers that thread through these primeval wetlands.

My first view of the swamp was from a plane window in 1989. I was headed to Savannah as a volunteer on the Caretta Project, protecting sea turtles on Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge. I wondered about the black spot north of Jacksonville.

Years later, I penned the lead of my first story covering DuPont Co.’s plan: “Night flights approaching Jacksonville Fla. cross a space on the earth where no light shines. From some airborne angles, the blackness in the corner of southeast Georgia stretches from horizon to horizon.’’

That initial story, along with a half dozen related ones, appeared on December 29, 1996. The issue overview took up most of the A section of the last Sunday paper of the year. After months convincing editors the story was going to be big for us, they relented and granted me the space needed to tackle it. From then until I left the paper in 2002, they remained generous with the ink and newsprint needed to explore an issue as convoluted and tangled as the Okefenokee itself.

Between that initial high-altitude glimpse and that first page-one story, lots of life happened.

To read on, visit georgiarecorder.com. This story was written by Gail Krueger, a former Savannah Morning News reporter, where this story first appeared.