$5 Million Grant for Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing!

Liberty Canyon was chosen for the project because it offers the rare combination of open
space on both sides of the 101. When it is completed it will reconnect the Santa Monica
Mountains with the Simi Hills, and the wider ring of mountains surrounding the LA Basin,
allowing local mountain lions and other wildlife to disperse or enter the local mountains.
Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

There was good news for the mountain lions of the Santa Monica Mountains this month. Not only did one of the big cats safely cross the 405 freeway (see article on page 11) but the project to build a wildlife crossing over the 101 freeway to help the big cats safely navigate the main barrier that keeps them from leaving—or entering—the Santa Monica Mountains received a major boost. 

“This week has been a momentous one for #SaveLACougars,” said Beth Pratt, California Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Leader of the #SaveLACougars Campaign to construct a wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon and the 101 freeway.

“Not only did we learn that P-61 made a miraculous journey across the 405, but we also received great news that a $5 million grant application we submitted to the California Wildlife Conservation Board for the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon, made it through the competitive process and we expect to be approved by the full board next year,” Pratt announced.

John Donnelly, the Executive Director of the California Wildlife Conservation Board, announced the grant. “The Wildlife Conservation Board has made key investments in the vicinity of Liberty Canyon,” Donnelly said. “I am pleased that a funding proposal will be advancing to the WCB to assist in the construction of the wildlife crossing over Highway 101 at Liberty Canyon.”       

“This brings the total raised to $13.4 million with this likely grant,” said Pratt. “If we continue to meet our fundraising targets, we will break ground on the crossing in 2021. Together, we have taken this crossing from a visionary idea to a forthcoming reality.”

The bridge can’t come soon enough for the local lions. The small population of big cats in the Santa Monica Mountains faces a lack of genetic diversity that could lead to their extinction. This genetic bottleneck is an unintended consequence caused by the construction of the freeway in the 1970s, and the big cats aren’t the only species suffering from what has been called “island syndrome,” their smaller cousin the bobcat is also impacted. 

The bridge would cross over the entire freeway and provide safe passage for all kinds of wildlife to cross over the roadway. The Liberty Canyon location planned would enable the overcrossing to reconnect connect open space in the Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It’s one of the only places left on the 101 corridor where there is still open space on both sides of the highway.

To learn more about legacy donations and recognition and naming opportunities, or to make a gift to #SaveLACougars, please contact Capital Campaign Director, Jonathan Lipton, at liptonj@nwf.org.

The Liberty Canyon crossing will be the largest wildlife overpass in the world, crossing over all lanes of the 101 freeway. Native vegetation planted on top will provide shelter and a feeling of security for the animals that use the bridge. This conceptual design art was released earlier in the planning process to provide a look at what the finished bridge might look like from freeway level.

 

Suzanne Guldimann
Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at suzanne@messengermountainnews.com

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