- Certification 101
- Forest Management
Sinker Log Certification
Submitted by Christopher.Reeves on Wed, 06/27/2012 - 00:00
Using Sinker Logs in the Production of FSC products
The Center for Forest and Wood certification was contacted by a local entrepreneur, William Joiner of Antique River Logs (ARL). William was interested in becoming a member of the Center’s chain-of-custody group so ARL could use materials manufactured from sinker logs for the production of FSC products. Sinker logs are logs that are brought up from the bottom of lakes and rivers. ARL was pursuing FSC certification because of a large and very lucrative LEED project ARL was quoting. The project required ARL to provide plywood panels that include his veneer on the visible surface of the product. The buyer was in love with the idea of using ARL’s antique logs in their new cooperate office building, but required FSC for LEED certification. After much discussion and consultation with FSC-US and SCS the Center pushed to proceed with ARL’s inclusion in the Center’s CoC group.
While researching the possibility the Center was initially instructed by FSC-US and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS – the Center’s certification body) that sinker logs could not be used as certified input for any FSC product groups. FSC defines sinker logs as virgin material and therefore prevents the use of these logs as reclaimed inputs for FSC recycled product groups too.
The Center and ARL thought that using FSC’s current definition (virgin material) for sinker logs would allow for their inclusion into the certified supply chain without a large scale policy change from FSC. Our unique solution was to use the veneer sliced from ARL’s sinker logs as a controlled wood input and apply the veneer to an FSC core enabling the final product to carry an FSC Mix claim. This final product could then be used in a LEED certified project. The Center first had to convince SCS that sinker logs and manufactured products could be used as a controlled wood input under the current standard.
The biggest challenge was proving point of origin of the original harvest. Point of origin has to be determined in order to establish that these logs were harvested from within the Center’s previously approved risk assessment area, the same as what is required for newly harvested logs. By dating the time period of the original harvest ARL could determine both distance and means of transport which proves the sinker logs were originally harvested upstream of the location they were discovered. Logs that were to be floated were transported to the river by oxen or mules. At the time of initial harvest it was not economically feasible to drag logs across one river system just to dump them in a different river system for floating them to a mill. They would have simply been dragged to the nearest stream and floated it to nearest mill. The logs can be dated from the way the trees were cut or bucked (e.g. ax cut) and by peg holes and chains that were used to tie the logs together for floating them. Photographic evidence of peg holes and chains are taken for each sinker log harvested by ARL. With this plausible argument, ARL can determine that logs were originally harvested up stream of the river from where they were reclaimed and thus place the original harvest somewhere in the river’s watershed. At that point the Center had to make sure the entire watershed was contained inside of the Center’s risk assessment and determined to be low risk. ARL makes a declaration for point of origin for each log that is harvested.
FSC also had legitimate concerns for the environment when these sinker logs are extracted from the bottoms of lakes, streams, or rivers. The extraction process could have negative impacts on endangered aquatic organisms (e.g. mussels) by increasing sediments, debris, and excessive nutrients in the ecosystem. These additional concerns could be mitigated with appropriate practices including avoiding endangered species habitat all together and using best management practices in raising the logs to the surface.
After going through an audit process and an expansion of the Center’s scope, ARL was approved by SCS for entry into the group. ARL can now use veneer sliced from his antique logs as controlled wood input for the production of FSC certified panels that can carry an FSC Mix claim. Although it currently is not possible, the Center is still pursuing the possibility of using sinkers as FSC certified input into FSC mix product groups.