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River clogged with rental boats and tubes? Tennessee Wildlife Federation wants your pictures

(Photo courtesy of Tennessee Wildlife Federation)

A little litter adds up to big problem for habitats and wildlife




Nashville, TN — Tennessee Wildlife Federation wants Smith County and other residents throughout the region to share pictures, videos and stories of how rental canoes, kayaks and tubes are affecting your favorite river.

Commercial kayak, canoe and tube rental services have skyrocketed and continue to expand in Tennessee’s most popular waterways at an unprecedented pace making public rivers unusable for others.


There have been increases in water rescues, unsafe practices, litter, bad behavior and conflicts with other citizens.

Meanwhile, individual anglers and paddlers are crowded out of these public water resources.

“Not all commercial operators are created equal. Some seek to be good stewards, but others operate with much less regard to our water or wildlife,” said Michael Butler, CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “We’re proud to have some commercial operators in our Share Our Rivers Coalition who are just as interested in conserving our natural resources for everyone.”

The Federation, one of the largest and oldest nonprofits dedicated to conserving the state’s wildlife and natural resources, has been working towards solutions to better share our rivers.

The organization helped draft and secure passage of a law in 2018 that gave the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) the authority to create rules for commercial operators on public waters. The Federation countered efforts by the commercial operator’s lobby to repeal or weaken that law. It also participated in TWRA’s public process creating rules that went into effect this January.

Today, operators must obtain a free permit, meet certain safety standards, including safety briefings for renters, and document how many commercial trips they are generating on which portions of the rivers.

Now that data is being collected about the volume of trips being created, Tennessee Wildlife Federation is turning its attention to a long-term and sustainable solution.

River-specific recreational use management plans are used across the nation, and on the Ocoee River in Tennessee, to protect the health and quality of a river, while allowing all users to share and enjoy public waters.

“Tennessee Wildlife Federation is excited so many Tennesseans are getting out and exploring what our state has to offer. Our goal is to find solutions that allow everyone to do the same,” said Butler. “Across the country, there are examples of reasonable sharing plans that make it so for-profit companies can still operate without excluding non-customers from using public rivers.”

If interested in learning more, sharing your experiences with the Federation or wishing to join the Share Our Rivers Coalition, visit tnwf.org/river-photos.


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