Youth protesters marched Monday in downtown Klamath Falls to raise awareness about water quality in the Klamath River.
Nearly two dozen teens, who are attending a weeklong Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp near Ashland, marched in front of the Klamath County government building shouting a call-and-response chant, “When the river is under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!”
Several protesters carried signs with slogans such as “Save our salmon” and “Protect our Earth, not your profits.”

Two others carried a 20-foot banner that read, “BOR stop the drain. End the pain,” referring to the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages water in much of the Klamath Basin.
According to camp representative Lacey Jackson, the youth descended on Klamath County to raise awareness about the Klamath Straits Drain, a Klamath Project water control device they believe is contributing to poor water quality in the Klamath River.
“We believe the water quality and the salmon population is being affected and decreasing due to the (Klamath Straits Drain). We know dam removal is in process on the Klamath River, but we believe restoration is also needed. Dam removal is the first step, but we wanted to make the public aware that if they are going to take these dams down, there needs to be a part two,” said 16-year-old Jackson, of Hoopa, Calif.
The Klamath Straits Drain extends from State Line Road, northwest to the Klamath River. The drain conveys water from Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and Klamath Project farmland, and transports excess winter flows, to the Klamath River, according to BOR documents.
Stoney McCoy, 16, of Hoopa, said he protested to help the public look at the importance of water quality in a new way.
After marching, the teens gathered in front of the government building to stage a salmon die-in, a street performance that illustrates how water quality impacts salmon. Jackson narrated the tale of a healthy river and its communities as protesters walked in a large circle with fish cutouts. As Jackson’s story turned darker, speaking of pollution and ill ecosystems, protesters lay on the ground with their fish, symbolizing death.
“Everyone drinks from this water — the ecosystems depend on this water; the salmon depend on this water; cultures depend on this water and it is being destroyed. This needs to change,” said 16-year-old Makiah Schlicker, of Sandy, Ore.
Jackson, a member of the Hoopa Tribe, said the salmon and the Klamath River itself are fundamental elements of tribal culture.
“We believe the river is a reflection of how our people are. If the environment is sick, how are our people supposed to be healthy?” she asked.
Camp Mentor Annelia Hillman expressed pride in the youth’s initiative to march in downtown Klamath Falls.
“Their voice is strong. They are telling you they are not going to take it anymore. … The dams are coming down but we’re not going to be satisfied until our water is clean,” Hillman said.
Hillman said the camp aims to empower the youth to fight for what they believe in.
“To help them realize their voice does matter and their ability to organize and speak up can make change,” Hillman said.
Sixteen-year-old Phalen Peterson, of Eugene, Ore., said the camp exposes young people to different forms of activism and helps them understand more technical aspects of involvement, such as knowing legal rights.
“They’re offering opportunities for youth to make significant change in their communities,” said
Before marching in downtown, the group protested where the Klamath Straits Drain meets Highway 97. After the downtown demonstration, the group protested at the BOR Klamath Basin Area Office.