Sep. 24—ATLANTA- Following widespread bipartisan assist, the Nationwide Park Service introduced Friday that it’s going to nominate the Okefenokee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge to hitch the United Nations Instructional, Scientific and Cultural Group’s World Heritage Checklist.
Inscription on the World Heritage Checklist would honor the Okefenokee’s pure and cultural significance and solidify america’ dedication to guard it.
“This is a chance to unite the communities of the Okefenokee and contain individuals in a significant manner, activating the pure sources economic system by supporting this collective effort to deliver worldwide recognition to one of many world’s nice pure wonders, the Okefenokee,” mentioned Kim Bednarek, government director of the Okefenokee Swamp Park.
The Okefenokee’s World Heritage bid has bipartisan congressional assist, and the Park Service acquired greater than 10,300 public feedback in assist of shifting ahead with a nomination. The nomination additionally has the endorsement of greater than 30 nationwide, state and native organizations.
The Okefenokee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge spans greater than 400,000 acres, encompassing roughly 93% of the mosaic of wetlands that comprise the Okefenokee Swamp. Its huge, untrammeled ecosystems assist a whole bunch of species of crops and animals, together with endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and threatened japanese indigo snakes. Okefenokee could be the primary property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to earn the World Heritage distinction.
“It is thrilling that Okefenokee is lastly taking this momentous step towards World Heritage inscription,” mentioned Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean director on the Heart for Organic Variety. “It is an enormous motivator to guard this irreplaceable, worldwide treasure. From the towering old-growth cypress to the tea-colored wetlands teeming with amphibians and reptiles, each final inch of Okefenokee deserves our recognition and safety.”
“We’re delighted to see Okefenokee NWR take the subsequent step in its journey towards inclusion on the World Heritage Checklist,” mentioned Geoffrey L. Haskett, president of the Nationwide Wildlife Refuge Affiliation. “The Okefenokee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge is one among our greatest examples of holistic conservation in america. The Okefenokee Swamp is unbroken due largely to the institution of the refuge in 1937. The Swamp contains the headwaters of two rivers, it offers habitat for a myriad of wildlife species, together with a number of endangered species, it sequesters huge quantities of carbon in its moist, peat soils that may in any other case be emitted and exacerbate international warming and local weather change — and its checklist of excellent attributes goes on and on.”
“A World Heritage Website designation is reserved for essentially the most superlative locations on the earth,” mentioned Ben Prater, Southeast Program Director at Defenders of Wildlife. “It is just becoming a spot just like the Okefenokee — with its unparalleled wild character, thriving biodiversity and cultural significance — be thought of for this recognition. This nomination is a vital step to make sure this treasured and irreplaceable piece of our pure heritage is protected into the longer term.”
Friday’s discover kicks off a years-long nomination course of, together with the preparation of an in depth nomination file highlighting the Okefenokee’s “excellent common worth,” the worldwide metric used to judge potential World Heritage websites.
The Okefenokee’s common worth is obvious from its huge biodiversity, uncommon longleaf pine ecosystems, and distinctive peat formations that comprise details about international situations over 1000’s of years. It is also a singular, rainfall-fed headwaters wetland and the origin of the Suwannee and St. Marys rivers. Not like different famend wetlands, it stays largely unhurt by human interference.
The Okefenokee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge will draft the nomination by way of a singular public-private partnership with the nonprofit Okefenokee Swamp Park to supply mission administration and monetary sources to assist Okefenokee’s World Heritage bid. With these sources in place, the refuge is nicely positioned to ahead a profitable nomination to the Nationwide Park Service.
Inscription on the World Heritage Checklist is the best honor on this planet for websites of ecological significance just like the Okefenokee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge. The designation doesn’t impose any new guidelines and rules.