The largest wildlife crossing in the world could be inaugurated in the spring

The largest wildlife crossing in the world could be inaugurated in the spring

The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing has been impressive since its inception.

The most famous nickname for the span that would provide safe passage for wildlife on Highway 101 in Agoura Hills is mighty; the “largest urban wildlife crossing in the world”, by the National Wildlife Federation.

Of course, a bracketed sentence was also always needed before “The greatest” – “[proposed].”

But now, to quote almost known, everything happens, so it seems.

“[The groundbreaking is set for] this spring. [And] the offer is about to be published by Caltrans. This is huge…I’ve been working on this for a decade,” Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, told LAist. “So this offer is going to come out and based on that schedule we should be looking at a break[ing] land this spring.

Credit_Living habitats and National Wildlife Federation.jpg

A rendering of the wildlife crossing spanning the 101. It was announced in September that when completed, the crossing would be named after the largest donor, Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.

(Courtesy of Living Habitats and the National Wildlife Federation)

A long-awaited construction start for the project is in itself worthy of making headlines, but wait, there’s more. The second phase of the switchover has raised money with proposed funding of $10 million in next year’s state budget.

“The budget includes a $10 million one-time general fund for Santa Monica Mountains Conservation to secure funding to complete the tunnel phase of the Agoura Road frontage crossing project,” reads- on in the buried post on page 102 of Summary of Governor Newsom’s proposed budget for 2022-2023.

An aerial view of the 101 freeway with a grass covered land bridge spanning it.

An aerial view of the proposed Liberty Canyon corridor with the designated frontage road expansion.

(Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)

Agoura Road runs along the highway. Phase two would allow the span to skip one more carriageway. Pending approval of the final revision of the state budget in May, of course.

Fortunately, even in the worst-case scenario of the $10 million being withdrawn, the larger future of the project remains bright, as phase one, passage 101, is not dependent on new funding.

A group of about a dozen people dressed in hiking gear walk down a frontage road next to a highway headed by Governor Gavin Newsom, who is wearing a dark shirt and blue jeans with sunglasses.

Governor Gavin Newsom visits the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor site with Beth Pratt in August 2019.

(National Wildlife Federation)

Pratt further detailed the finances of the project as a whole.

“87 million [dollars] is the estimate that Caltrans made in 2018, what they need to do as part of their process for the whole project which includes all phases,” Pratt said. “In this estimate was the high estimate for the construction of 78 million[ dollars.] So that was when they conceived 30%. So we’re now at a point where we have 100% or 95%…for the first step.

Pratt says that ultimately $78 million is a solid estimate for the project.

Eleven animals, a coyote, a deer, a rabbit, a puma, a bobcat, an eagle, a bat, a toad, an aunt and a lizard, are represented in circles around a representation of the crossing of the wildlife.

A distribution of wildlife biodiversity that would benefit from the crossing.

(Living Habitats/National Wildlife Federation)

The next steps will be to further assess the design and construction of phase two, as well as to ensure that appropriate funds are raised and allocated to larger conservation efforts around the corridor. It is a unique project, after all, a cocktail of private and public collaborations as long as they are remarkable.

“The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Bridge Project is a partnership with Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, National Park Service, and the National Wildlife Federation,” reads the proposed budget summary. .

But ultimately, for Pratt, it comes down to the cause. It’s a labor of love, and, fittingly, our interview was punctuated by his own barking animals. Seeing this crossing completed will be worth every inch of effort.

“I think I’m going to cry. I think a lot of us will… Just [seeing] that first animal captured by the camera crossing… That’s what it’s all about,” Pratt said. “The fate of these cougars… I remember having this very solid thought: ‘Not on my watch. We can fix this one. “…this team will prevent the extinction of the cougar population.”

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