A Freeway For Wildlife: Groundbreaking Wildlife Crossing Planned For Conejo Valley Close To Start Of Construction
Work on Highway 101 overcrossing in Agoura Hills could start by end of year.
A project to help save the lives of wildlife like mountain lions which was little more than a dream a decade ago is now close to overcoming its biggest hurdle, which is raising the final dollars to pay for it.
"This is a wildlife crossing that will span ten lanes of the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills," said Beth Pratt, the California Regional Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation. For the last decade, she’s helped spearhead the Liberty Canyon overcrossing, which would be the world’s largest overcrossing of its type.
"It will not just be a bridge. You are basically putting kind of a landscaped park on top of the freeway, where animals will be crossing," said Pratt.
The project has taken off in the last year, with a $25 million commitment from the Wallis Annenberg Foundation, and $20 million from the State Wildlife Conservation Board. The effort is $6 million away from its goal. Caltrans has estimated the total coast at $87 million.
Some of the leaders of the unique non-profit and public agency coalition putting together the project gathered to celebrate the progress.
"I can think of no action that's more inspirational, or important to the cause of environmental conservation than the Liberty Canyon Crossing," said Wade Crowfoot, the Secretary of the State Department of Natural Resources.
The gathering took place at an overlook in the Hollywood Hills. It’s part of the turf for one of Southern California’s most famous mountain lions.
A photo of P-22 walking at night with the iconic Hollywood sign in the background went viral. The mountain lion has become the furry face of the #savelacougars campaign.
The $25 million gift from the Annenberg Foundation prompted the campaign to name the project the “Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing."
While the final $6 million still needs to be raised for the project, construction is on track to start later this year. The goal is to have it completed by the fall of 2023.
Even though the Conejo Valley project is still technically on the drawing board, it’s already inspiring similar projects around the state.
The State Wildlife Conservation Board also approved funding for wildlife crossing projects near Mount Shasta in Northern California outside of San Jose, and for one near Temecula.