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 during unsuccessful attempts to stake out new territory. Those remaining in the Santa Monica Mountains are plagued by inbreeding and crowding.
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired in July, National Park Service Biologist Jeff Sikich said building a wildlife corridor over the 101 was pretty much the only hope for our local mountain lions.
To acquire the land, the conservation groups had to overcome stiff competition from a host of developers, who envisioned it being used for projects ranging from hotels to a private high school to luxury equestrian estates to 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 P-22, the overpass won’t 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 $25 million.