WRO Staff / Tuesday, June 11 @ 11:15 a.m. / Environment, Our Culture

Klamath River Fund Aims to Support 'Health and Restoration' Following Dam Removal

Tasheena Natt fishes on the Klamath River. | Photo courtesy of the Yurok Tribe

From the Wild Rivers Community Foundation and Humboldt Area Foundation:

Humboldt, Calif. (June 11, 2024) -- Today, The Humboldt Area Foundation and Wild Rivers Community Foundation (HAF+WRCF) launched the Klamath River Fund. It is a first-of-its-kind fund established to explicitly support the health and restoration of Klamath Basin ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.
Currently, the largest dam removal and river restoration project in U.S. history is occurring on the Klamath. The fund will support local communities as they take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by dam removal.
“Dam removal makes Klamath communities uniquely positioned to show the world how to restore threatened ecosystems, heal the wounds of a colonial past, and empower rural people to chart their own future,” said Bryna Lipper, CEO of HAF+WRCF. “We invite additional funders to join us in this important work.”
The fund is launching with $10 million in seed funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, with additional support from The James Irvine Foundation, the Roundhouse Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, and other anonymous funders. This growing funding partnership, rooted in a local community foundation, will support Tribal and rural communities in leading and shaping their basin’s future.
“We are thrilled to support the launch of the Klamath River Fund. It is a new model for how philanthropy can be a partner in the longer-term work of healing nature and communities,” said Andrea Keller Helsel, program officer for environment at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “Dam removal was only the first step; now we will see the transformations that are possible when Tribal and rural communities are resourced to come together and co-create a new vision for the region.”
The 257-mile-long Klamath River was once the third-largest salmon-producing river on the U.S. West Coast and an important food source for Tribes across the basin. Over the years, dams, diversions, poor forest management, and mining have challenged the resiliency of the basin’s diverse ecosystems. Several runs of anadromous fish have been lost, and others are on the brink of extinction. More recently, drought and wildfires have led regulatory agencies to curtail water diversions and restrict commercial, tribal, and recreational fishing. This has impacted Tribal, recreational, and commercial fisheries and the communities and economies they support. As an example, for the second consecutive year, the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended canceling the 2023-2024 California salmon season due to plummeting Chinook populations—affecting Tribes, recreational fishermen, and commercial fishing businesses. The Klamath River Fund aims to address these challenges.
The removal of the Klamath dams begins the largest river restoration project in U.S. history. The project advances fisheries and water quality restoration, creates new economic opportunities, and begins the process of restorative justice for the Tribes and Indigenous people who have lived along the river since time immemorial. Dam removal has already spurred investment in restoring key tributaries, upper Klamath basin wetlands, fish habitat, natural fire regimes, and more. However, additional actions are needed to fully restore the Klamath River Basin.
“We appreciate the opportunity to contribute to a fund that will create jobs and economic mobility in the Klamath River Basin,” said Don Howard, president and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation. “We’re particularly grateful to deepen our support for Tribal- and community-driven restoration and revitalization priorities that create climate and economic resiliency in the region.”
The fund will support grantmaking to bolster community healing, Tribal self-determination, science and restoration, storytelling, climate resilience, regenerative agriculture, environmental stewardship, and more. In addition, HAF+WRCF has announced that a minimum of 60 percent of granted funds will be directed toward Tribes and/or Indigenous-led and -serving organizations in the basin.
“It’s important to recognize that the people on the ground, the rural and Indigenous community members of the Klamath Basin, are the ones best suited to make decisions about the future of their region,” said Erin Borla, executive director of Roundhouse Foundation. “With the establishment of this fund, philanthropists from near and far can partner with locally-based organizations to expand their capacity and elevate their voices.”
"Dam removal along the Klamath River will require years of restoration to repair the land to its historic and natural beauty. To be part of this collaborative effort, alongside Tribes and other funders, is something we're incredibly excited about," added Stone Hudson, program officer for Meyer Memorial Trust.
To learn more about the fund, including how to apply for grants or how to make a contribution, visit hafoundation.org/klamath.
Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF) was established in 1972 and was joined by its affiliate Wild Rivers Community Foundation in 2004. Today, the Foundation serves Trinity, Del Norte, and Humboldt counties in California, and Curry County, Oregon, as well as the 18 Tribal Nations and Indigenous Territories across this region. In 2023, the Foundation distributed $8.5 million in grants, including $1.9 million in donor-advised grants and nearly $1 million in scholarships, and provided countless hours of technical assistance, advocacy, and convening throughout the region.
For more information about HAF, visit hafoundation.org or call (707) 442-2993.


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