Youth Speak out for Orcas and Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Youth have so much at stake, from climate change to the sixth mass extinction and wealth inequality to social justice. In the Pacific Northwest, the Endangered Species Coalition is tapping into the zeal and energy of youth activists that are on the ground, fighting to protect wildlife and wild areas. 

On April 29th, four youth activists shared their wealth of knowledge about why we need a free-flowing Snake River during a Youth Panel co-hosted by the Endangered Species Coalition, the Snake River Savers, and Idaho Conservation League. Asa Menlove and Shiva Rajbhandari of Boise, ID and Grace Brennan and Owen Begley-Collier of Seattle, WA – all of whom are under the age of 25 – explained the importance of salmon to the Northwest.

Salmon provide 98% of the diet of The Southern Resident Orcas, an endangered population of killer whales that frequent the Salish Sea, explained Owen. Orcas aren’t the only species that rely on salmon, said Grace, adding that over 130 other species rely on salmon and salmon have even been found in the makeup of trees. Asa wrapped up the importance of salmon by describing the integral role of salmon in indigenous Tribes’ culture, as well as in recreation economies in Idaho. Finally, Shiva presented the audience with a vision of clean energy that can replace power from antiquated dams while providing new jobs to Northwesterners.

Showing the hope of a new generation of activists, the four panelists explained that the Snake River, a tributary to one of the mightiest rivers in the country, the Columbia River, has the potential to produce up to 1 million additional salmon to the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. Four dams in the lower Snake have killed some of the largest salmon runs in the lower 48 states. We have the opportunity to bring salmon back to abundance through the largest river restoration in North American history, simply by removing four dams in the lower Snake. As the panelists point out, we can’t do so without the support of key members of Congress, like Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. The youth activists encouraged us all to call our members of Congress and urge them to support the restoring the Snake River. If not for orcas, salmon, or tribes, then for future generations.

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