By Richard J. Lenz

At Lenz, our goal is to effectively use the wide variety of strategies and tools of marketing communications for the companies, organizations, people, and causes we believe are trying to make the world a better place. Most of our clients have built businesses based on a personal calling. They are helping the sick, educating future generations, or leading innovative nonprofits that have identified issues that need action. Others are growing innovative companies that solve human problems in a more efficient, cost-effective way.

We are proud of our clients’ accomplishments as they grow, innovate, and constantly push to be better at delivering their mission. They are successful because they aren’t “one-and-done” with their efforts, but like effective marketing communications, they keep at it, pushing and constantly tweaking “the way we do things around here.” Which gets me to my story.

Some may remember when Time magazine was a “thought leader” in media. Their spin-off company, Time-Life Books, would publish and market book series that were excellent overviews of a subject, with beautiful photography and illustrations, written by the top experts at the time, about a wide diversity of subjects such as science, art, cooking, and history.

One such set was The American Wilderness, which featured the best-of-the-best natural areas of North America, with single volumes on Alaska, the Cascades, Baja California, and Appalachians. Interestingly, editors decided that there was a place in southeast Georgia ranked high enough to merit a full-book treatment: The Okefenokee Swamp.

It’s a 700-square mile black water swamp ecosystem, the largest in North America, greater than the area encircled by Interstate 285, formed by a natural sandy ridge that acts as a dam that backs up the flow of water to the Georgia coast. If you have ever visited the swamp, you will agree with me that it is a beautiful and unforgettable experience.

After decades of local, state, and national protection, the National Wildlife Refuge was threatened in the late 1990s when DuPont purchased the rights to mine the titanium found in the ridge soils. A broad coalition was formed to prevent this from happening, and ultimately, after six years, a deal was done and the land was donated to The Conservation Fund. During that effort, Lenz was lucky to play a role in helping the Georgia Wildlife Federation and others message the importance of the swamp through a variety of “marketing communications” efforts.

Guess what? Not “one and done.” The threat is back.

Twin Pines Minerals, of Birmingham, Alabama, has applied for a Clean Water permit to strip mine near the boundaries of the National Wildlife Refuge. The permit is under review and open for public comment. You can find a news story and their application here.

Mining is a valuable, necessary, and underappreciated activity that provides the essential raw materials upon which modern life depends. We can’t live like we do without minerals. They are needed for (almost) everything.

Mining by definition affects the landscape. And like all human activities, there is a trade-off. We can’t get to useful minerals without disturbing the ground. However, we should evaluate whether the gains are worth the losses, and be able to make smart choices. For example, none of us want a mine in our backyards. How about in Yellowstone National Park? And how about this precious ecosystem? Is anywhere off limits if there is a dollar to be made by a company that donated to a particular candidate or party?

What is now happening in South Georgia isn’t a surprise. Our current leadership in Washington, D.C., has opened up mining to 2 million acres of formerly protected lands, which belong to all Americans. Former lobbyists of extraction industries are now running the Environmental Protection Administration, doing everything they can to weaken 50-year-old laws (which were established by a Republican president) that have safeguarded us and our natural resources. The EPA was formed to protect us from threats of dirty air and water, not help create more. This same administration is trying to weaken the popular Endangered Species Act, which passed the House in 1973 by a vote of 355-4 in the House.

If you care to learn more about the strip mine, I have some suggestions.

First, if you have never visited the Refuge, I recommend that you do. A simple Google search will lead you to a variety of parks and experiences. It is a natural wonder. Or get involved and support the organizations that are trying to make sure the public’s interest is not forgotten: One Hundred Miles, Southern Environmental Law Center, The Georgia Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, or the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

More directly, for those interested in weighing in on the permit before a critical September 12th deadline, please email holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil, or send your thoughts by mail by to: Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah Division, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, GA 31707.

We need mines, but not one here.