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Plans To Create World's Largest Urban Wildlife Crossing In Conjeo Valley Gets Big Financial Boost

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(lLiving Habitats/National Wildlife Federation image)
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A aerial rendering of the Highway 101 Liberty Canyon Wildlife crossing

$25 million dollar challenge grant made by Annenberg Foundation

It’s a busy morning on Highway 101 at the east end of the Conejo Valley.

More than 300,000 vehicles a day pass through the section of the highway, in the Liberty Canyon area between Calabasas and Agoura Hills. The highway is 10 lanes wide, to try to keep traffic moving. But, the 101 has created dangerous barricade to wildlife migrating between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills.

An effort to address the problem is underway, in the form of a project to build the world’s largest urban wildlife crossing, spanning the 101. The effort just received a $25 million dollar challenge grant.

Beth Pratt is the California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation. The Federation is one of the leaders of the #SaveLACougars campaign.

She says the plan calls for a more than 200 foot long, 165 foot wide wildlife bridge over the freeway. It would be covered with soil and plants, to make it feel like part of the region’s habitat to wildlife.

National Park Services Wildlife Ecologist Seth Riley has been studying the region’s mountain lion population for years. He says the current limitations on the big cats migration is literally threatening their long term existence. The are losing their genetic diversity because they can't reach out to breed with mountain lions in other areas.

The project is now in its final design work, with Caltrans expected to have the plans completed by late summer. But, the wildlife crossing isn’t going to be government funded. The #SaveLACougars campaign is trying to raise the estimated $65 million dollars plus needed for construction.

The Annenberg Foundation is now offering a $25 million dollar matching grant to build support for the project. The financial campaign now has pledges for about half of the construction goal.

Pratt says its expected construction would take a little over two years. After the financial goal for construction is met, they want to raise money to maintain the crossing’s habitat, as well as to support more mountain lion research.

She says to motorists on the 101, it will be a lot prettier than a typical freeway overpass. Pratt says it will look like you are driving under part of the landscape.

Once it’s completed, will wildlife find and use the 165 foot wide crossing? Riley says other, smaller scale crossings have quickly been adopted by deer, and other animals. He believes mountain lions, and other wildlife will quickly begin using it.

You can find more information on the campaign at: https://savelacougars.org