UC Davis Professors Beth Rose Middleton Manning and Robert Lusardi recently published a compelling piece in the online news publication “The Conversation.” In “Removing dams from the Klamath River is a step toward justice for Native Americans in Northern California,” the authors explore the connections between the removal of four Klamath river dams and the ways in which returning the river to health will benefit both the people who have called the Klamath Basin home since time immemorial and the fish populations that rely on the river for survival.

As the authors note, “Dam removals have catalyzed ecological rebound in other rivers, including the Elwha in Washington state and the Kennebec and Penobscot in Maine. As scholars working in Native American studies and freshwater ecology, we see the Klamath dam removal as an opportunity to right historical wrongs, improve depleted native fish populations and strengthen an understanding of the relationships between fish and Indigenous peoples.”

Later in the article, they continue:

Dam removal will encourage native and endemic fishes to return to the upper basin and access important spawning and rearing habitats. Fish population responses will probably vary, particularly during the first several years after removal.

However, salmon and trout have evolved to migrate upstream and access important headwater spawning and rearing habitats. Making this possible will support long-term recovery of these ecologically and culturally important species.

It also will promote the recovery of Indigenous peoples’ homelands and lifeways. In Yurok restoration engineer Brook Thompson’s words, “We’re all focused on finding solutions to bringing our salmon back home and creating a healthy life for them. Creating a healthy life for salmon means creating a healthy life for us as people.”

These observations shed light on the wide variety of benefits that communities and natural areas will experience throughout the basin as the dam removal process moves forward. You can read the full article here.