– Feb. 22, 2023 –

Little Tybee cleanup

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources earlier this month hired a contractor to remove semi-permanent encampments from Little Tybee and Cabbage Island Natural Area, a Heritage Preserve that sits just south of Tybee. Myrick Marine needed a barge to haul away 4.5 tons of lumber, metal sheeting, camping supplies and trash campers left on the island where “leave no trace” camping is the rule, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports. The cost to taxpayers: $35,000 and counting.

One camper with a decades-long tradition of staying at the encampments is a Chatham County Police Marine Patrol officer who for months anonymously urged the DNR to leave some of the structures intact. But the DNR is obliged by an agreement with The Nature Conservancy, which retains an easement on the island, to keep the area in its natural state. Now the department is working to determine who is responsible for other encampments in the Heritage Preserve and urging them to remove structures.

A barge is loaded with dismantled structures ready to be removed from Twin Palms.
A barge is loaded with dismantled structures ready to be removed from Little Tybee. Credit: Georgia DNR

Jimmy Carter’s green legacy

President Jimmy Carter’s recent announcement that he’s receiving hospice care at home in Plains has sparked numerous looks back at his life. While he’s often lauded for his post-presidency work with election monitoring, low income housing and the eradication of guinea worm, it’s also been a “Life of Conservation,” as The National Park Service notes as it lists his accomplishments on this front before, during and after his presidency.

As a state senator, Carter was a charter member of the Georgia Conservancy, begun in 1967. The Georgia Conservancy honored Carter as a distinguished conservationist in 2019.

While he was governor he was instrumental in talks that led to Sandy West’s sale of Ossabaw Island to the state, which allowed the island’s protection as a Heritage Preserve.

As president during the energy crisis, a cardigan-wearing Carter famously encouraged Americans to reach for a sweater rather than ratchet up the thermostat. He also installed 32 solar panels on the White House roof. At the time he declared that “a generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.” 

Ronald Reagan removed Carter’s panels but George W. Bush put new panels up on the White House grounds to heat the pool. Barack Obama eventually restored rooftop solar to the White House roof, where it remains today.

Like the White House, Carter wasn’t finished with solar. About five years ago he leased 10 acres of land near his home in Plains to be used as a solar farm with 3,852 panels. It’s since been planted with wildflowers like red clover to improve the habitat for pollinators.

“Three years after going live, Carter’s solar farm now provides 50% of the small town’s electricity needs, generating 1.3 MW of power per year,” the website Upworthy reported in 2020.

A solar farm of more than 3,800 panels sits on a seven-acre site in Plains where Jimmy Carter’s family once grew peanuts and soybeans. Credit: UGA

Hydrologists weigh in

University of Georgia hydrologist Rhett Jackson has long expressed his concerns with proposed mining near the Okefenokee swamp, arguing that his analysis shows the strip mining for titanium is likely to have drastic effects on the iconic wilderness. Now he’s enlisted 10 other hydrologists from around the Southeast to back him up in a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Division Monday. They outline how the EPD is using data from the wrong river gauge to model the mine’s effect, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports.

The hydrologists’ letter comes as EPD is collecting public comment on the project’s Mining Land Use Plan. The first of two online public meetings was held Tuesday evening. It attracted 129 participants, with 81 signing up to speak for two minutes each. The second meeting is scheduled for Thursday, with sign up available here: https://bit.ly/okiezoom

A paddler’s view of the Okefenokee. Credit: UGA Coastal Ecology Lab

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DNR clears illegal encampments from Little Tybee

After repeated complaints the Georgia DNR began to remove unauthorized structures and equipment from the Little Tybee and Cabbage Island Natural Area in Chatham County.

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Hydrologists: EPD using wrong data to predict mine’s impact on Okefenokee

Academic hydrologists from around the Southeast signed on to a letter supporting the use of a different river gauge than the one EPD chose.

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Despite ongoing investigation and scientific disputes, a plan for strip mine near Okefenokee advances

While weighing fines for the mining company, state regulators open a comment period on its controversial plan to strip mine near the Okefenokee.

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Mary Landers is a reporter in Coastal Georgia focusing on the environment for The Current. It's a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time...