December 14, 2018

Caltrans Holds Public Hearing on Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

 

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER 2016

Caltrans Holds Public Hearing on Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) spoke at the hearing in support of the wildlife crossing in her district.

On a cold, rainy night in the Santa Monica Mountains, Caltrans presented its current findings on the project to build a wildlife crossing across U.S. Route 101 (US-101) just west of Liberty Canyon Road in the City of Agoura Hills.

To support the project, nearly 300 environmental activists, wildlife advocates, Agoura Hills residents and key government officials packed the King Gillette Ranch Auditorium on January 14 for a public scoping meeting regarding the proposed Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing—a grassy bridge that would allow large mammals such as mountain lions, bobcats, gray foxes and mule deer to cross safely from the Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains.

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER 2016

Caltrans Holds Public Hearing on Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

Graphic rendering of the proposed wildlife crossing over the 101 freeway west of Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills.

As designed by Clark Stevens of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM), Caltrans’ proposal calls for a 165-foot-wide by 200-foot-long bridge across the freeway that would resemble natural wildlife habitat and include a hiking trail. Such wildlife crossings have been built and used successfully in other states and countries.

A further option for the proposed $55 million project includes an additional grassy wildlife crossing over Agoura Road just south of the freeway.

CA State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) spoke briefly on the positive impact the crossing would have on the large mammals in the mountainous community, noting that the project has been in the works for more than 30 years and would advance the progress of open space in the Santa Monica Mountains.

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN MESSENGER 2016

Caltrans Holds Public Hearing on Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

Graphic of P-18 who perished while crossing a road.

According to Caltrans, the crossing would help reduce wildlife mortality, ease animal movement across habitats and allow for the exchange of genetic material. In particular, large mammals such as mountain lions and bobcats need large connected habitats in order to hunt, breed, and thrive.

The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing would be the first of its kind in California and the largest in the world.

During the presentation, Dr. Seth Riley, Chief Wildlife Biologist with the National Park Service, passionately advocated for mountain lions and said the reduction of territory for mountain lions has resulted in inbreeding, territorial fighting and a decrease in genetic diversity, the lowest in the world.

“At the moment, we don’t have any safe way for them to cross the freeway,” Riley said. “Mountain lions are the most vulnerable species in our parks.” He emphasized that, without the addition of a wildlife crossing, the ecological and environmental impacts on wildlife movement that resulted from the original construction of US-101 will persist.

According to Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder, this project presents a unique opportunity for public-private partnership, adding that an environmental study is needed before the project can proceed. It would be built with public and private funds, she added.

According to Beth Pratt-Bergstrom of the National Wildlife Foundation (www.savelacougars.org) the goal is to secure at least $10 million by 2017 and the balance by early 2019 in order for the crossing to be completed by 2021.

Current partners in the project include Caltrans, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, NPS, and the RCDSMM. Additional support and partnership is being provided by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), Assembly member Richard Bloom, the City of Agoura Hills, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the National Wildlife Federation, Congressman Ted Lieu, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, the City of Agoura Hills, the City of Thousand Oaks and the State Coastal Conservancy.

The Scoping Meeting also offered an opportunity for public comment, which overall, were in support of the project.

The public is also welcome to submit written comments by January 29 to: liberty.canyon@dot.ca.gov;
or write to Barbara Marquez, Senior Environmental Planner, Caltrans Division of Environmental Planning, Liberty Canyon Project, 100 South Main Street, MS 16A, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For further questions, Ms. Marquez may also be reached at (213) 897-0791.

For more information: dot.ca.gov/dist07/travel/projects/libertycanyon/.

­­­­­