It’s no secret that there has been a dramatic uptick in youth involvement in environmental activism in the last few years, with young people from all around the globe leading the charge on climate action. Youth-led groups like Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement have millions of devoted supporters worldwide, and for good reason. Young people are a generation born into a world in need of saving, and they are stepping up to the challenge.
While young people have recently been on the front lines of climate activism, it will come as no surprise to anyone involved in salmon and steelhead restoration that this has been a fight often led by an older demographic. For whatever reason, it seems that the majority of those in the fight to save wild fish are older — perhaps they remember a time when rivers flowed unobstructed and fish were plentiful. For decades, these men and women have been a united voice for river restoration and fish protection. Finally, it seems that their calls for action have found their way into younger ears.
Youth Salmon Protectors
Youth leaders have begun to emerge all over the Pacific Northwest, and Boise has become a hub for youth-led salmon and steelhead activism. Youth Salmon Protectors (YSP), a “coalition of young people in the Pacific Northwest dedicated to saving wild Columbia River salmon and steelhead,” has been extremely vocal in their support for Congressman Mike Simpson’s Columbia Basin Initiative.
Letters, a rally, and an online panel
So far, YSP has been able to generate hundreds of letters to Idaho elected officials with many more on the way. The momentum is only picking up, and bigger and better things are being planned for the coming weeks. On April 24, they will host a rally on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building where they will summon the voice of Boise youth and demand action on salmon and steelhead restoration. A few days after the rally, leaders of YSP along with youth leaders from Washington State will hold an online panel to discuss all things Snake River restoration, salmon, steelhead, and orca protection, and what young people throughout the region can do to get involved. This event will take place on the evening of April 29. For more information on both of these events, see their Instagram page (@youthsalmonprotectors).
The momentum that has been generated by groups like Youth Salmon Protectors is powerful, and it shows no signs of slowing. Every day, new sets of young eyes begin to see our rivers dammed, our fish dying, and our ecosystems struggling. That grim sight turns quickly into a hopeful vision for the future — a vision of our rivers flowing free and unobstructed, a vision of bountiful populations of wild salmon and steelhead, and a vision of the intrinsic and endless value that lies in thriving, salmon-fed ecosystems. These visions inspire action, and action will lead to results. Get on board or get out of the way, because young people in the Pacific Northwest are making change.
– By Asa Menlove, The Idaho Conservation League’s Youth Engagement Coordinator, Boise, Idaho, Shoshone and Bannock traditional lands