The Klamath dam removal is the largest dam removal project and largest river restoration project in U.S. history, with monumental impacts for river and ecosystem health, economic and workforce development, revitalization of Tribal and rural communities, and restorative justice to Tribes and Indigenous people who have lived along the river since time immemorial. Led by the Yurok and Karuk Tribes in partnership with nonprofit organizations, lawyers, scientists, and activists, the project will reopen 400 miles of habitat for coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and other threatened fish species, and allow the lower Klamath River to flow freely for the first time in more than a century. 

The 257-mile-long Klamath River was once the third largest salmon-producing river on the U.S. West Coast, and an important source of food for Tribes across the basin. Dams, combined with over-allocation of limited water supplies and climate-driven mega-drought, have contributed to declines in salmon and steelhead abundance. This has impacted Tribal, recreational, and commercial fisheries and the communities and economies they support.

In April, the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended canceling the 2024 California salmon season due to plummeting Chinook populations. This recommendation mirrors their decision in 2023 when they also advised closing the fisheries. Unfortunately, this closure had significant impacts on Tribes and commercial fishing businesses, resulting in the loss of approximately 23,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in revenue for California.

Map of northern California and Southern Oregon showing geography of Klamath River Basin

The Klamath River Fund was established with seed funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and additional launch funding from the James Irvine Foundation, Roundhouse Foundation, and an anonymous funder. HAF+WRCF is now inviting philanthropic partners that share our goals to join us in this exciting and momentous opportunity. 

The Klamath River Fund seeks to accomplish the following goals over the next 10 years (2023-2033): 

  • Create a comprehensive effort to advance climate and community resilience within the Klamath River watershed from the headwaters in Klamath Lake in Oregon to its mouth in Requa, California. 
  • Scope and facilitate effective grantmaking, strategy coordination, and technical assistance to support Tribal and local community-driven restoration and revitalization priorities. 
  • Increase philanthropic and public funding for Tribal and rural community needs in the basin. 
  • Demonstrate how river restoration, of which dam removal is only the first step, is an investment in climate resilience, community resilience, and restorative justice. 

The program’s first priority is to build and deepen relationships within the Klamath Basin with community leaders, cultural leaders and elected Tribal officials; listen to needs and desires; and co-design strategy and priorities. This will lay a groundwork of understanding around opportunities and community hopes, where strength, power, activities, resources and existing funding currently reside, and where there are gaps. This will allow for strategic planning and program design that is based on community input and accounts for long-term commitment and support. 

The program will enhance and strengthen relationships between and among community members and leaders, Tribal Nations, agencies, and philanthropy throughout the Klamath Basin; increase collective narrative and understanding of how restoration is defined, envisioned, and implemented, including individual relationships to the river; and support decision making systems that are respectful, informed, and empower self-efficacy. 

The fund will support grantmaking to bolster community healing, Tribal self-determination, science and restoration, storytelling, climate resilience, regenerative agriculture, environmental stewardship, and more. HAF+WRCF has committed to directing a minimum of 60 percent of granted funds toward Tribes and/or Indigenous-led and -serving organizations in the basin. Grant funds will also leverage public dollars into the region by funding capacity building, technical assistance, pre-development needs, and/or match dollars.

If philanthropy works together to leverage this moment that Tribes, activists, landowners, agencies and nonprofits have worked toward for decades, restoration of the Klamath River could someday be cited as a premier example of climate resilience and restorative justice on an unprecedented scale. We hope you will join us in this exciting opportunity.

For general inquiries, email the Klamath Team or contact:

Pimm Tripp-Allen (Karuk/Yurok), Senior Advisor, Tribal & Native American Relations;
Gina Zottola, Vice President, Advancement & Philanthropic Innovation;
Keytra Meyer, Departmental Director, Advancement & Philanthropic Innovation;

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