California to Build Huge Wildlife Crossing Over 10 Lanes of Freeway
© AP Photo / Marcio Jose SanchezFILE - U.S. Highway 101 passes between two separate open space preserves on conservancy lands in the Santa Monica Mountains in Agoura Hills, Calif., July 25, 2019. Groundbreaking is set for next month on what will be the world's largest wildlife crossing, a bridge over a major Southern California highway that will provide more room to roam for mountain lions and other animals hemmed in by urban sprawl. A ceremony marking the start of construction for the span over U.S. 101 near Los Angeles will take place on Earth Day, April 22, the National Wildlife Federation announced on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
© AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez
Wildlife in Southern California is set to thrive as the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has announced plans this Thursday to build the world’s largest wildlife crossing over US 101.
The $90 million project will begin construction on April 22 to give territorial access back to wild cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes, and other native critters of the Santa Monica Mountains after their land was long plowed through by highways and cars.
About 60% of the funding for this project was private, and the remaining amount paid by public funds reserved for conservation efforts.
“Crossings like this are nothing new,” said Beth Pratt, California’s NWF regional executive director. “This one’s historic because we’re putting it over one of the busiest freeways in the world.” Pratt, transportation officials, and other conservationists helped organize the project.
Wildlife crossings are common in western Europe and Canada, and in some parts of the eastern US. The Banff National Park’s system of wildlife crossings, including both bridges and tunnels, has been in place for over 20 years. The park, in Alberta, Canada, has 38 underpasses and six overpasses and has reduced roadkill by some 80%.
Sweden has built wildlife crossings to help reindeer herds, shepherded by the indigenous Sami, to cross busy roads to graze. Prior to this the migration of reindeer would cause traffic jams as cars scared the reindeer, causing them to scatter and their shepherds to lose control.
Massive wildlife crossing to break ground on Earth Day
The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing will be located about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It’s named after the 82-year-old philanthropist who donated $25 million to the construction of the bridge.
The crossing will be 200 feet long and 165 feet wide, stretching over 10 lanes of highway, allowing animals to find quieter and more remote areas to hunt, mate, and live without fear of becoming roadkill.
"California's diverse array of native species and ecosystems have earned the state recognition as a global biodiversity hotspot," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement on Thursday. "In the face of extreme climate impacts, it's more important than ever that we work together to protect our rich natural heritage."
Construction of the bridge is planned to take place at night and shouldn’t disrupt the usual flow of traffic. The project is estimated to be completed by early 2025.
The wildlife crossing saw its inception in research published by scientists using GPS to track cougars in the area and realizing that roadways are one of the most significant issues in the conservation of these beloved big cats. Researchers realized being unable to cross giant freeways caused the cougars to be confined to one location, limiting their options for mating and hunting.
The bridge will be designed with vegetation and is intended to look indistinguishable from the surrounding scenery.
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