Victory! Land Purchased for Future L.A. Wildlife Corridor
There’s really good news for mountain lions, bobcats, deer and other wildlife in the Los Angeles area. A swath of land between two mountain ranges has just been purchased – and it will never be developed. The 71-acre parcel between the Santa Monica Mountains and Santa Susana Mountains is a crucial corridor for these animals as they migrate north.
Due to urban sprawl, it’s almost impossible for mountain lions in L.A. to establish new territories. Being confined makes them vulnerable to attacks by older lions. They also have to inbreed, which can cause health problems and strange behavior. Santa Monica Mountain cougars are among the most genetically isolated in the U.S. They could become extinct within 50 years.
“From our roads to rat poisons to potentially increased interactions with other mountains lions, it is very difficult for young animals to make it to adulthood, establish their own home range and reproduce,” said Dr. Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for the National Park Service, after three young mountain lions were found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains within a few weeks in October 2015.
The purchase of the land for a future wildlife corridor was years in the making. In 2012, conservationists started negotiations to buy it as part of the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor project. A private seller has finally sold the land to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) for $7 million after funding was approved by the state Wildlife Conservation Board.
The MRCA is a government public entity dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space and parkland, watershed lands, trails and wildlife habitat. It’s a partnership between the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Conejo Recreation and Park District, and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.
The purchase doubles the size of protected wildlife habitat next to the busy 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills. It is “one of the last significant unprotected properties in the Liberty Canyon inter-mountain range,” according to a Wildlife Conservation Board staff report. “The longterm survival of species depends on their ability to move between the Santa Monica Mountains and Los Padres and Angeles National Forests to maintain genetic diversity.”
The land has been named in honor of state senator Fran Pavley, who worked for years to secure the funds to buy it. Her efforts helped prevent it from being developed with homes, hotels and a proposed prison.
The next step is to make the journey of these animals much safer by building a wildlife bridge across the freeway. Plans are already in the works for a 165-foot-wide vegetated bridge that will be the first of its kind in California.
“Believe me, everybody’s back at work already,” said Dash Stolarz, the MRCA’s public relations officer, at a Nov. 18 press conference announcing the land acquisition. “And we’ll keep working until we get this bridge built and every single mountain lion has a better chance than he had the day before.”
Photo credit: National Park Service