Tennessee Wildlife Federation wants pictures, videos and stories of how rental canoes, kayaks and tubes are affecting rivers.

Commercial canoe and kayak rental services have grown rapidly and continue to expand in Tennessee’s most popular waterways at an unprecedented pace. There were increases in water rescues, unsafe practices, litter, bad behavior and conflicts with other citizens. Meanwhile, anglers and paddlers are crowded out of the public water resources.

To share experiences with the federation, visit tnwf.org/river-photos.

“Not all commercial operators are created equal. Some seek to be good stewards, but others operate without regard to our water or wildlife, much less other users,” said Michael Butler, CEO of the 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 worked toward solutions to better share rivers.

The organization helped draft and secure passage of a law in 2018 that gave the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency 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 the law. It also participated in TWRA’s public process that created rules that went into effect in January.

Operators must currently get a free permit; meet certain safety standards, including safety briefings for renters; and document how many commercial trips they are generating on what portions of rivers.

Now that data is collected about the volume of trips created, Tennessee Wildlife Federation turns 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.”

To learn more and join the Share Our Rivers Coalition, tnwf.org/river-photos.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation leads the conservation, sound management and wise use of Tennessee's great outdoors. Since 1946, the federation has spearheaded the development of the state’s wildlife policy, advanced landmark legislation on air and water quality and other conservation initiatives, helped restore numerous species and introduced thousands of children to the great outdoors. To learn more, visit tnwf.org.

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