Americans do not often agree over the politics of environmental/green issues. One thing they can always unite upon, though, is the love of animals.
The welfare of Californian animals got a huge boost late last year with the announcement that the world’s biggest wildlife crossing will be built in Los Angeles, protecting animals from the intrusion of freeways and associated dangers. The project will break ground sometime in 2021.
The need for the crossing was realized when environmentalists cautioned that Los Angeles County’s extensive development has created pockets of isolated habitat sliced up by immense roads like the 101, 110, and 405. This creates problems for the large mountain lion population, who attempt to cross the road and may be killed by traffic.
In fact, in the United States, estimates say that road systems affect the ecology of one-fifth of the country’s land area and that vehicle-animal collisions cost $8 billion each year.
Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation, one of several partner organizations working on the LA project, said this is not the only problem, “it’s a little deeper than just that the animals are getting hit by cars, they are becoming genetically isolated because animals cannot move into the small islands of habitat that are created by our freeways.”
The crossing project is funded by 2700 private donors, including the National Wildlife Federation and Save LA Cougars, a non-profit set up to support the project. Together, they have raised $15 million for the construction of a 165-foot crossing that will pass over the 101 in Liberty Canyon. Designs are set to be released shortly, and all indications suggest construction will begin later this year.
To make the crossing as quiet and shaded as possible and ensure lions feel confident in the man-made construction, the overpass will feature extra-dense trees and other plants. At 165 feet wide, with additional vegetation planted to extend to the wild spaces on either side of the freeway, the crossing will primarily connect habitats in Malibu Creek State Park/Santa Monica Mountains and Palo Comado Canyon, creating a corridor through which lions can make their way to other areas of the mountains.
Other wildlife crossings exist around the world and have been successful, including a Blue Penguin underpass in New Zealand. Still, the LA county project is the first to occur in an overly developed urban area. In fact, it is right through an area housing some of the wealthiest Hollywood celebs. Pratt said, “we have something no other crossing has, which is millions of people around it, the Kardashians are down the street.”
Thus, the project has to consider sound and light—the 300,000 to 400,000 cars that pass through the area each day. Pratt continued to say that the crossing would not only help recreate an ecosystem for wildlife, but it has the potential to be used as a model for “helping animals in other urban areas to get across the road” too.