Residents of Los Angeles would definitely consider their city an urban area. As L.A. becomes increasingly more urban in character, wildlife residing in the Santa Monica Mountains are put at risk due to habitat fragmentation from construction of freeways and housing. To counter this and protect animals from becoming endangered, specifically mountain lions, plans for the first-ever wildlife crossing across the 101 Freeway has been established.
Caltrans has proposed to build a bridge across the 101 Freeway that will allow animals to travel between the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills. The crossing is set to be 165 feet wide and 200 feet long, crossing over 10 lanes. To camouflage it with the natural surroundings and provide the animals with a more realistic environment by blocking noise, plants such as trees and shrubs will be a feature on the crossing. While the concept is not new to to other states, the bridge would be the first of its kind in California.
The construction of the 101 Freeway in 1926 separated the Santa Monica mountain from the rest of California’s mountains, causing “inbreeding, territorial fighting, and a decrease in genetic diversity.” According to Caltrans, once the bridge is completed, it will “reduce wildlife mortality, ease animal movement across habitats, and allow for the exchange of genetic material.” They also claim that the project will let current wildlife adapt to climate change. Since climate change will cause animals to move to different locations, there is a need for them to get across the freeway. This is extremely crucial to several species, as they are on the verge of local extinction.
One of them is the mountain lion. After a mountain lion, referred to as P22, made local headlines by successfully crossing two major freeways in Los Angeles and trekking 40 miles to Griffith Park, animal conservation activists rallied in support of the freeway overpass. The National Wildlife Federation claims that P22’s current living conditions are not ideal and constructing the wildlife crossing would help avert other mountain lions from dying out.
The total cost of the wildlife crossing is expected to be around $30 million, which is very costly. However, supporters plan to obtain funds at the local, regional, and national levels. Additionally, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has assisted with a $200,000 grant. As of now, the project is in development and is undergoing assessments to make sure it passes CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Do you think wildlife crossings are a good idea? Are there any wildlife crossing in your area? If so, how have they affected local wildlife? If not, what is your community doing to protect wildlife and diversity? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Sophia Huynh.