On Friday, U.S. agencies announced that they will nominate Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge as a UNESCO World Heritage site. What would this historic designation mean for the Southeast Georgia swamp?
The refuge is 407 thousand acres, and provides refuge to endangered species, like the indigo snake and wood stork.
And now it could join a list of important American sites, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
“If successful, it will be the first and only Fish and Wildlife service property and national wildlife refuge to become a World Heritage site, so that is quite remarkable.”
Kim Bednarek is the executive director with the Okefenokee Swamp Park and Okefenokee Adventures.
“This is the culmination of a 40-year journey for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, really to be nominated by the Department of Interior and US Fish & Wildlife Service to take this next step towards inscription as a world heritage site.”
The designation doesn’t create any new rules or regulations. But Bednarek says the benefits to the surrounding community are immense.
“What follows the recognition as a World Heritage Site is heritage travel, and tourism, and sustainable development around these communities that are anchored by this incredible natural asset, which will now be recognized on the international stage.”
A final decision is expected to take years. Bednarek says they expect to make a submission to UNESCO in February 2025.