As human development expands, wildlife habitats diminish. There’s no way around it. There are, however, ways to mitigate our imposition on nature and help provide safe pathways for wildlife to travel between desired locations. A proposal announced Wednesday calls for a land bridge over the 101 highway near Los Angeles, in Agoura Hills, that could help save the lives of countless bobcats, mountain lions, and other wildlife. It’s an ambitious project both in scale and cost, but would it keep wildlife safe?
Wildlife in the greater Los Angeles area have faced ever-increasing danger over past decades, as development has expanded and severed their natural habitat. Roadkill is a problem anywhere there are roads, but big cats have a particularly difficult time crossing large highways near LA. Since National Park Service researchers began tracking mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2002, a dozen mountain lions have been struck and killed by motor vehicles in the area.
The proposal would see the construction of a 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long landscaped overpass near Liberty Canyon Road. The bridge would provide a pathway for wildlife to safely cross the 101 and travel between the Santa Monica Mountains on the south and the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. An approach like this is an ambitious attempt to solve an enormous problem, and construction alone would be tricky and expensive. There are 10 lanes of traffic and an exit lane on the 101 at the proposed build site. Essentially, it’s an unprecedented move. “I don’t know anywhere where people have tried to put such a large wildlife crossing over such a busy highway in such an urban landscape,” said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.
The projected would cost an estimated $33 million to $38 million, according to the feasibility report from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. State agencies, elected officials, and wildlife advocates all seem to be in support of the project, and the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund are raising funds for the engineering design and construction expenses. The design could take up to two years, with multiple opportunities for public opinion prior to breaking ground.
Images via Resource Conservation District and Shutterstock