By Weston Boyles, Rios to Rivers

In remote, southern Chile two beautiful rivers are in danger of being dammed. Five dams have been proposed on the Baker and Pascua rivers, which flow from the Patagonia icecaps to the Pacific Ocean. If they are built, one of the last great wilderness areas on earth will be destroyed. Seventy-four percent of Chileans oppose the dams, including a group of young kayakers who have grown up paddling on these rivers.

In August 2013, a nonprofit organization called Rios to Rivers formed to empower the Baker and Pascua's young advocates. The group brought 10 young Chilean kayakers to the US to see a large dam for the first time in their lives, take part in hands-on studies about the effects of dams with ecologists and energy experts, and paddle 290 miles of the Colorado through the Grand Canyon while learning about the history of its successful protection. Meanwhile, 10 American kayakers joined the Chilean paddlers on their home rivers to learn about the proposed dams.

In 2017, Rios to Rivers is planning a second exchange, this time bringing Chilean paddlers to the Klamath River in California where four dams are slated to be decommissioned as part of the largest dam removal project in history.

Related | The Power of Rivers: A new exchange looks to shape the next generation of conservationists