$87 million project aimed at saving mountain lions
By Keldine Hull
An $87 million wildlife crossing, mostly funded by private donors, went into its final design phase last month. Slated to be completed by 2023 and stretch 200 feet above 10 lanes of the 101 freeway, it will be the first of its kind near a major metropolis and largest in the world.
While tunnels are more common throughout California, the new wildlife crossing will give creatures of the Santa Monica Mountains safer access to food, open spaces and potential mates. According to recent studies, inbreeding due to habitat loss could lead to the extinction of mountain lion populations in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“What you’re seeing with the 101 freeway is it has actually acted as an ecological barrier,” said Beth Pratt from the National Wildlife Federation in an interview with the Associated Press. “And what it’s doing is creating an island of the Santa Monica Mountains- cut off from the rest of the world. And as we know, nature does not like islands.”
Pratt added that no one has attempted to do a connectivity project of this magnitude. “This crossing isn’t going to bring more wildlife; it’s just going to ensure they don’t go instinct,” Pratt explained. “And I think that’s cool that 300,000 people a day are going to drive through this crossing that wildlife will be walking over. And to me that’s the perfect way that wildlife and people can co-exist. We’re not taking the freeway away from people. They can still drive yet we’re doing this beautiful thing for animals so that they don’t get hit by cars and so that they can have a future.”