The late 19th century brought countless changes to the face of Florida. The landscape of towering pine trees and expansive cypress swamps on the southerly peninsula invited new inhabitants and spawned new industries, including several northern logging companies. In those early years, armed with only an ax, loggers clear-cut the longleaf pine forests and harvested the giant cypress. Pines and cypress, some thousands of years old, and subsequent hand-cut logs were then rafted together and floated downriver to nearby sawmills.
It has been estimated that nearly 10% of these cut timbers sank while in transit and were lost to river bottoms where they were preserved by the cool water and lack of oxygen. Modern day artisans highly regard the wood that is milled from these pre-cut submerged timbers, or deadhead logs, because of their great strength, durability and resistance to rot. Wood from the sunken logs, revered for its tight grain and array of colors ranging from blond to caramel to black, is up to 10 times more valuable than conventional wood. It is used to make upscale paneling, flooring and furniture.
The state of Florida claims ownership of most of the logs since they are located on sovereign submerged lands. In 2000, a moratorium prohibiting deadhead logging was lifted, allowing loggers to retrieve deadhead logs from Florida water bodies upon authorization and according to specific legal and environmental conditions. However, logs that were originally branded by the logging companies may still be claimed by their original owners.
Today, the authorization is provided through DEP’s issuance of an environmental resource permit (ERP) from the Submerged Lands and Environmental Resource Permitting Program and through a use agreement from the Governor and Cabinet serving as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund.
What do you need to do to deadhead log?
Attend the Master Deadhead Logger Certification Training.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.