By Cooper McCauley
Apr 13, 2023
BOISE, Idaho — Next week the Youth Salmon Protectors (YSP) will be heading to Washington D.C., calling on Congress to take action and protect endangered salmon and steelhead found in the Snake River.
The YSP is a program of the Idaho Conservation League. Despite being created in 2021, the YSP has grown to a coalition of over 2,000 people across the Northwest region advocating for salmon, steelhead, and tribal justice.
Salmon and steelhead are threatened by the presence of hydroelectric dams which cause warmer waters, slower migrations and even foster invasive predators.
During their week-long trip, the YSP will be joined by other conservation groups from the Pacific Northwest, including the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). These groups will be meeting with elected officials to discuss the dire state of wild salmon and steelhead and push for the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams.
“Not only are salmon a critical food source, they’re also part of our spiritual and cultural identity,” said a member of the CTUIR Youth Leadership Council. “In our language, we are ‘Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum (salmon people).’ ‘Wy-kan-ish (salmon)’ are important for our sacred life renewal ceremonies, our daily food, and for our economy. The salmon that swim from the ‘Naxiyam Wana (Snake River)’ and ‘Nchi’-Wana (Columbia River)’ into the Pacific Ocean are family to us.”
The YSP believes breaching Snake River dams will aid in the restoration of these keystone species while also upholding commitments made by the United States to indigenous tribes in treaties.
“Salmon and steelhead are integral to the Pacific Northwest way of life. As a keystone species, hundreds of other species rely directly on them, creating a system that is central to indigenous and local cultures as well as our economy,” said Lilly Wilson, a member of YSP and a Youth Engagement Assistant with Idaho Conservation League. “The four dams that sit on the lower Snake River could be removed and fully replaced with new infrastructure that works better for the region while saving wild fish and restoring our native ecosystem.”
These advocates regularly take time out of their school and extracurricular activities to urge elected officials to take immediate action to remove harmful dams, replace their services with sustainable alternatives, and restore healthy salmon populations to Idaho.