Famous worldwide, cougar P-22 roams Griffith Park.
This spring, what will be the worldâ€™s largest wildlife overpassâ€”the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossingâ€” begins construction across the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is scheduled
to be completed by 2023.
It was a proud moment when Gov. Gavin Newsom, American philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, and a host of elected officials readied their golden shovels for the formal groundbreaking of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in Agoura Hills. The name honors Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundationâ€™s $25 million donation.
The crossing will enable critical species, such as endangered mountain lions, to safely migrate via a bridge that crosses ten lanes of the 101 freeway, expanding their territory into habitats in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Simi Hills and the Los Padres National Forest.
For the past decade, the project has been spearheaded by Beth Pratt, California Regional Executive Director and Leader of the National Wildlife Federation.
Pratt hosted the groundbreaking on Earth Day, April 22, with more than 50 speakers, 200 wildlife advocates and a crush of media.
â€śThis is not just an L.A. story, this is not just a California story, this is a story around the world,â€ť she said. â€śWe did it, P-22, we did it!â€ť
After the crowd settled in, Chumash Elder Alan Salazar began the event with a blessing, as the freeway was built across the traditional land of the FernandeĂ±o Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. He was followed by two students from Esperanza Elementary School in Watts who sang a song about P-22, the famous cougar who lives in Griffith Park and has inspired children worldwide.
As the saying goes, â€śIt takes a village...,â€ť and a long list of speakers, from wildlife supporters, partners, and elected officials who praised the project, took a while before Pratt invited Gov. Gavin Newsom to the podium.
â€śItâ€™s a gracious and glorious day,â€ť Newsom said. â€śFifty-four million dollars the state has put up for this project and will put up another $10 million!â€ť
Wallis Annenberg also praised the crossing.
â€śWe are shattering the old way of doing business,â€ť she said. â€śToday, we are reconnecting land and living creaturesâ€¦we can share this Earth and co-exist with all kinds of wildlife instead of paving it over.â€ť
Elected officials who spoke at the groundbreaking included Assembly members Richard Bloom and Laura Friedman, State SenatorssHenry Stern and Ben Allen, U.S. RepresentativessJulia Brownley, Brad Sherman, Ted Lieu, and Adam Schiff.
Photo by Brad Rumble From left, Beth Pratt (in blue shirt) of the National Wildlife Federation, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Wallis Annenberg were among the VIPs breaking ground for construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing over the 101 freeway in Agoura Hills.
U.S. Senator Alex Padilla described the crossing project as a â€śbridge over 10 lanes of traffic, a lot of traffic at that.â€ť
Mountain Lions Struggling to Survive. To date, the crossing will be the largest wildlife crossing in the world, reconnecting a long-fragmented ecosystem that will help protect the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife that make their home in the Santa Monica Mountains.
According to Wildlife Biologist Jeff Sikich, due to urban development, area mountain lions and bobcats are struggling to survive and are in desperate need of access to the natural areas on both sides of the 101 freeway. Many mountain lions are killed while trying to cross the freeway, while others, unable to expand their territory to find a suitable mate, are subject to genetic inbreeding.
Public-Private Partnership: The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is a public-private partnership that leveraged the expertise and leadership of dozens of organizations and institutions.
The core partners include Caltrans, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.
The project partners also added a world-renown design team led by a landscape architectural practice, Living Habitats LLC, that collaborates with Caltrans and coordinates with a broad team of wildlife crossing experts in the planning and design development of the project.
â€śTogether, we have done the near impossible,â€ť Pratt said. â€śAs we break ground on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, itâ€™s wonderful to celebrate with people from all over the world who rally around our beloved L.A. Cougar hero, P-22, and the rest of this threatened mountain lion population to give them a future.â€ť
For more information: https://mrca.ca.gov/
Philanthropist Wallis Annenberg and Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony.