When Youth Salmon Protectors (YSP) was created in 2021, ICL had no idea how large it would become or how effective it could be. What we did know is when young people have space to organize on their own, their collective actions can carry us to real solutions. 

Over the years, YSP has grown to a coalition of over 2,000 people across the Northwest region advocating for the salmon, steelhead, orcas, and Tribal justice. These kids will regularly meet after a long day of school and extracurricular activities to paint banners, plan rallies, write Letters to the Editor, and call their elected officials, urging those in power to remove the four lower Snake River dams.

YSP member and BSU student, Cheyon Sheen, speaks at a salmon rally in Boise in November 2021. Gregg Mizuta photo.

While evenings of chalk art on the sidewalk, banner drops in Twin Falls, or Halloween theatrics may not appear as momentous steps toward solving an issue that’s been fought in court for decades, youth advocates are keeping a steady beat of pressure on decision makers and keeping the issue in the news.

This past Earth Day, Youth Salmon Protectors, alongside the Idaho Climate Justice league, organized a climate justice rally at Idaho’s Statehouse. The rally honored local elected officials who have taken concrete steps toward climate solutions with the first-ever ‘Outstanding Progress in Climate Action Award,’ and called for increased environmental education, incentives for clean energy initiatives, more youth-leadership positions in local government, and sustainable water and land use practices. 

This is what using your voice looks like:

Students rally for Snake River dam removal at the Capitol during the first-ever climate justice rally in Idaho in April 2022.

YSP, led by ICL’s Youth Engagement Coordinator Shiva Rajbhandari, has expanded from Boise into cities across the northwest. Advocates from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho gathered earlier this year for a Youth Salmon Celebration at Hells Gate State Park, along the banks of the Snake River. High school and college-aged students, joined by members of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and Save Our Wild Salmon, heard from leaders of the Nez Perce Tribe and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation’s (CTUIR) Youth Leadership Council about the urgent need to restore salmon and honor promises made to Tribes. The CTUIR youth have been making waves of their own with an online petition that’s just shy of 25,000 signatures. They plan to deliver the petition to President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Next month, young advocates in Washington state will be hosting a rally of their own at the State Capitol in Olympia. They will be calling on Washington state leaders to prevent salmon and Southern Resident Orca extinction by breaching the four lower Snake River dams. Interested in attending? Learn more and register for the event here!

Check out Youth Salmon Protector’s website for more information or follow them on Instagram @youthsalmonprotectors.

You can take action yourself for our wild salmon and steelhead below, or sign up for our Salmon & Steelhead Campaign updates here.