Nov. 2, 2022

Snakes alive

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources acted last week to prevent exotic snakes and lizards from making themselves too comfortable in the Georgia landscape. Meeting in Richmond Hill, the DNR Board voted to impose new restrictions on the ownership of certain animals, including pythons and tegus, a large lizard that wildlife researchers liken to a reptilian raccoon for its adaptability. Reptile enthusiasts, including a couple who moved their snake breeding business to Brunswick after Florida changed its laws, pushed back against the restrictions to no avail. The new rule goes into effect later this month.

Argentine black and white tegus, the largest of all tegus, can reach 4 feet long and weigh 10 pounds or more. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

DNR’s funeral protocol

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams’ mother-in-law died last week and 19 salaried state personnel attended her funeral in Jesup as official representatives of the department. Department spokespersons said the attendance followed protocol and was appropriate because DNR is a “family” and the deceased was a supporter of the department. But William Perry of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs said it didn’t pass the “smell test” for him. “It just seems like an abuse of taxpayer dollars, rather than people who wanted to go paying tribute.” 

Mark Williams Credit: Ga DNR

Warnock v. Walker on environment

For Georgia voters whose main concerns are environmental, reporter James Bruggers of Inside Climate News has the lowdown on the senate race here. He boils the race down to climate activist versus climate skeptic With examples like these: Incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock provided a critical vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides $370 billion in federal spending to tackle climate change. Republican Herschel Walker has had little to say about climate change or energy policy. But he did criticize the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $1.5 billion to enhance urban forestry programs, saying there were already enough trees.

warnock and walker in senate debate
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker participate in the Nexstar Georgia Senate Debate at District Live at Plant Riverside District in Savannah on Oct. 14. Credit: Nextstar

Briefly noted:

Right whales are in ever worsening condition, with 340 individuals remaining at last count, the New England Aquarium reported last week. Recent population declines for these animals, which give birth in Georgia waters, have erased gains made early this century and put the highly endangered whales back to levels seen around 2002. The Georgia Ports Authority opposes the expansion of rules designed to reduce deaths and injuries of whales from ship strikes, the Brunswick News reported. GPA officials say slowing ship speeds will cost too much and could be unsafe at times for harbor pilots.

The Georgia River Network on Tuesday screened a film online about the proposed titanium dioxide mine near the Okefenokee Swamp and followed it with a panel discussion that included activists, UGA hydrology professor Rhett Jackson and state Rep. Darlene Taylor. Taylor promised to propose legislation that would outlaw mining on Trail Ridge, which is where Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals plans to mine. Watch a recording of “Okefenokee Destiny” and the panel discussion by registering hereUse the passcode: Ph.p9P03

The original plan for Spaceport Camden is stuck in litigation on several fronts, with voters rejecting the proposal, and land owner Union Carbide backing out of the property sale. A space-related proposal seems to be moving forward, though. On Tuesday the Camden County Commission approved zoning to allow space research and technology (and several other special uses including solar, a helicopter pad and a telecommunications tower) on the property adjacent to that of Union Carbide. Organic Capital Fund LLC bought the nearly 8,000-acre parcel in February. “We have no interest in launching rockets,” Organic Capital’s agent David Cole told the commission. Good thing, as the Federal Aviation Administration’s licensing for spaceport is site specific and cannot transfer to the adjacent property.

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In Georgia, Warnock’s climate activism contrasts sharply with Walker’s deep skepticism

Vying for a seat that could determine control of the Senate, Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock has a 100 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters, while GOP challenger Herschel Walker frames climate change as a liberal hoax.

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Georgia restricts ownership of pythons, tegus, other reptiles

Georgia DNR votes to limit future ownership of large invasive reptiles; owners have 12 months to get pets registered and tagged.

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DNR sends 19 state employees to funeral of commissioner’s mother-in-law

Deputy Director Walter Rabon spoke with division directors and asked them each to designate up to five employees to attend the service.

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Report: Most ships violate speed limits that protect right whales

Nearly 90% of ships violated seasonal speed restrictions that protect North Atlantic right whales from Brunswick, Ga., to Wilmington, N.C., between November 2017 and July 2020, a report published Wednesday by environmental group Oceana found.

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Justices question procedure, merit of Camden’s spaceport case

State Supreme Court hears oral arguments on spaceport referendum. Decision expected within six months.

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Mary Landers is a reporter for The Current in Coastal Georgia with more than two decades of experience focusing on the environment. Contact her at She covered climate and...