California’s Largest Wildlife Crossing to Reduce Animal Collisions

Groundbreaking is set for next month on what is billed as the world’s largest wildlife crossing, a bridge over a major Southern California highway that will provide more room for cougars to roam and other animals surrounded by urban sprawl.

A ceremony marking the start of construction of the span on US 101 near Los Angeles will be held on Earth Day, April 22, the National Wildlife Federation has announced.

The bridge will give big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe route to open space in the Santa Monica Mountains and better access to food and potential mates, said Beth Pratt of the federation of wildlife.

“Railway crossings like this are nothing new,” Pratt said, noting that there’s one outside of Yosemite for toads. “This one is historic because we put it on one of the busiest highways in the world.”

She helped organize the project with other conservationists and state transportation officials.

Pratt said the bridge will be the first of its kind near a major metropolis and the largest in the world, spanning 200 feet over 10 freeway lanes and a feeder road just 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Construction will take place primarily at night and will not require lengthy Highway 101 closures, officials said. It should be completed in early 2025.

The $90 million prize will be covered by approximately 60% private donations, with the rest coming from public funds earmarked for conservation purposes. The span will be named Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, for the philanthropist whose foundation donated $25 million.

Governor Gavin Newsom called the project an “inspiring example” of public-private partnership.

“California’s wide array of native species and ecosystems has earned the state recognition as a global biodiversity hotspot. In the face of extreme climate impacts, it is more important than ever that we work together to protect our rich natural heritage,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday.

The star of the fundraising campaign was the Puma P-22. Famous for crossing two freeways and taking up residence in a sprawling Los Angeles park, the big cat has become a symbol of dwindling genetic diversity in wild animals that must remain trapped in sprawling development or risk becoming kills. the road.

Scientists who track cougars fitted with GPS collars have found over the decades that the roads largely confine the animals to the mountains that run along the Malibu coast and through central Los Angeles to Griffith Park, where P- 22 settled down.

Despite being the face of the project, P-22 is unlikely to use the bridge as it is confined to the park several miles away. But many of those close to him could benefit, Pratt said.

Some 300,000 cars travel this stretch of the 101 every day in Agoura Hills, a small town surrounded by a patchwork of protected wilderness that the new overpass will connect.

Drivers in the Liberty Canyon area will speed under the 165-foot-wide bridge with brush and trees growing above, seamlessly joining the hillsides on both sides of the lanes.

The architects designed the topography to be indistinguishable from the landscape on either side. Berms and dips with high edges will block sound and light from the lanes below.

Wildlife crossings – bridges and tunnels – are common in Western Europe and Canada. A famous one in Alberta’s Banff National Park spans the Trans-Canada Highway and is frequently used by bears, moose and elk.

The Los Angeles-area bridge received near-universal support, unusual for a public works project. The draft environmental impact document received nearly 9,000 comments – with only 15 objections, according to the wildlife federation.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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