Here’s a spot of promising news for our local fauna, via KPCC: Culminating several years of negotiation and fundraising efforts, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has acquired a 71-acre swath of land between the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Valley that will be the site of Southern California’s first freeway overpass for wildlife.
Purchased from a private seller for $7 million, the newly acquired property doubles the size of permanently protected core habitat along the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills.
Conservationists behind the project believe the corridor is key to boosting the longterm survival chances of resident wildlife species whose habitats have been severely impacted by highways and urban sprawl. Most notably, this includes the dwindling population of mountain lions.
At least 13 of the big cats have been killed by cars in recent years in ill-fated attempts to stake out new territory, while those remaining in the Santa Monica Mountains are plagued by issues related to inbreeding and overcrowding.
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired in January, National Park Service biologist Jeff Sikich stated that building a wildlife corridor over the 101 was “pretty much the only hope” for our local mountain lions.
To obtain the land, the conservation organizations had to overcome stiff competition from a slew of developers, whose proposed uses for it included hotels, a private high school, luxury equestrian estates, and a jail. Previously known as Chesebro Meadow, the hard-won parcel has been renamed Fran Pavley Meadow after the state senator and former Agoura Hills mayor who was instrumental in securing the necessary funding.
Unfortunately for lonely bachelor-cat P-22, the overpass isn’t going to be built anytime soon. Per KPCC, a team of developers from CalTrans is now working on creating an environmental document outlining the local impact of constructing the bridge. Once that's completed, there’ll be another phase of fundraising to finance construction, which is expected to cost around $25 million.