The Story Behind Florida’s Deadhead Logging Permit
By: George Goodwin
Goodwin Company owns the Federally Registered Trademark for the term ‘River Recovered®’. I registered it after realizing recovering logs was more than just a love…it had become a lifestyle.
I began pulling River-Recovered® logs from the Suwannee River in the mid 1970’s. About a decade later, others started following in my footsteps. Many of the loggers used public landings, which aggravated the fishermen and folks who were also trying to enjoy the rivers. I also noticed they were not, in my opinion, taking a sustainable approach when harvesting the logs. The need for some sort of protocol designed to protect the environment became very apparent.
As a result, I visited politicians and suggested ways the State of Florida could regulate river log recovery in an environmentally sound manner. I requested meetings in Tallahassee (Florida’s Capital) with the Department of Submerged Lands and the Department of Environmental Protection. I also reached out to environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. We offered to demonstrate the appropriate way to recover ‘deadhead’ logs, which are so named because the small end of the log floats like a head out of the water.
The demonstrations were organized on the Suwannee River near Live Oak, Florida – about 40 miles from Goodwin – and also on the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee Rivers in the Panhandle. There were a few river loggers in a boat and State officials in another boat. We showed them how to tie off both ends of the log so it did not drag on the river bottom. We explained how there were a lot of logs on the river bottom; however, most were second growth downed by storms and not worth recovering. We demonstrated how to tell the difference by examining the density of the growth rings on the end of the logs. We then helped organize the curriculum for a Master Log Recovery Class that all river loggers in the state of Florida are required to pass.
By the mid-1990’s, we succeeded in helping create an environmental permit program proposal to present to the Florida Legislature. Part of the permit required providing an archeological survey of the area of river that you want to log to prove that you are not disturbing any ancient sites or endangered species. Governor Lawton Chiles signed the permit into law in 1998. Governor Chiles loved the environment and was one of our biggest supporters.
Governor Chiles’ son, Ed Chiles, has a River-Recovered® Heart Cypress desk in his office on Anna Maria Island, Florida. Ed recently told us, “Dad was always very passionate about protecting old growth cypress. These giants speak to our history and to the critical balance that must be retained if we are to protect our watersheds and our precious environment. Goodwin Company’s work is a direct result of some of the work Dad did as governor when he and the Florida Cabinet approved the reclamation act allowing the treasures that were buried throughout parts of our state as a result of the logging operations in the late 19th and early 20 century.”
We sure do miss the Governor, but are very grateful for his son, Ed, who is proudly carrying on the environmental mission of his father.
River log recovery is often called ‘brail’ diving by the river loggers. Injun Joe Collins worked at Goodwin in the early 1990’s. He started river logging a few years after the permit was passed and then went on to star in the “Ax Men” television show for a couple of seasons. Today, Joe is Goodwin’s Production Manager and can be found diving in Goodwin’s log pond on the sawmill property whenever we need a special log.
We’ll talk more about river log recovery and how the logs are perfectly preserved after we talk some about the history of the heart pine ecosystem in future articles.
I consider it both an honor and privilege to not only provide you with the highest quality wood available on the market, but also share my experiences with you. Thank you for your confidence, time and trust. You, my valued customers and friends, make this journey all worthwhile!
My best always to you and yours,