Wildlife Crossing Construction Camera Gives Glimpse Into LA’s Conservation Future
It’s this specter over the 101, casting a looming shadow on the lanes.
The promise of the world’s largest wildlife crossing — projected on camera.
On Tuesday, a feed went live — at first glance, just another video stream overlooking the progress of another Los Angeles freeway project. But this project was different — it was designed to do everything in its power to avoid traffic.
This project is the Liberty Canyon wildlife corridor in Agoura Hills, a behemoth undertaking of conservation, civil engineering, and ecological restitching.
Its mission is simple — slice one of California’s busiest freeways in half with a mass of concrete, earth, and biological material that will allow mountain lions and other wildlife safe passage over the 101 Freeway.
No freeway has killed more cougars since the National Park Service began its study of the endangered species in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2002.
The camera, which can be seen on savelacougars.org, is a readily available dose of reassurance for advocates who have backed the project through years of delays and frustrations.
Advocates like Beth Pratt from the National Wildlife Federation, a champion of mountain lions who helped make the crossing’s spring groundbreaking a reality.
“This wildlife crossing cause has been a marathon. And it seems like the finish line was never coming,” Pratt said. “It's a bit surreal for me that we're at the point where the bulldozers are there… are about to do this big earthmoving… [We] now have a camera that, at any time of day, I can check in and watch from my home.”
She said this work is happening, right at the spot where P-89 approached the site two weeks ago. Later, he would be struck and killed just up the freeway.
He was a few years too early.
Global Visibility Matches Global Support
The camera puts the crossing in a spotlight matching its worldly promise and support. It takes a few keystrokes to pull it up anywhere with internet access, a massive milestone for a project that didn't have a concrete start date in January. It gives an opportunity to see and perhaps believe.
Pratt said that donors are from all over; from Kansas and Florida to Australia, London, and Hong Kong. California backers range from Boeing to Gov. Newsom to Hollywood household names.
Like Oscar, Tony, and Emmy-award nominated writer John Logan, famous for penning the scripts for Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall, and Spectre. His donation started the camera rolling.
He said he lives in Southern California because he’s an “avid fanatical hiker” (Aside: the fact that he wrote Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall, and Spectre appears to be incidental in terms of his choice of home). His love of the outdoors brought the crossing to his attention.
“If I'm not sitting writing, I'm out hiking” Logan said. “You hear the stories of the mountain lions, other animals being killed trying to cross the 101 Freeway, and it's devastating. This wildlife is a precious resource that needs to be protected.”
Logan secured the funds, while wildlife camera expert Johanna Turner set up the proverbial tripod. She’s a longtime supporter of the project who always felt a bit “on the outside,” when it came to laying the groundwork for the bridge. Until this spring, when she got a call from Pratt.
“I don't have any skills to offer it as far as building bridges. When Beth called up and said, I think I have a project for you. I was like, ‘Yes, I was made to do this, I will absolutely do this.’”
Turner said the camera’s installation came on “one of those 95-degree” days in the spring, the perfect conditions to hike some 500 feet up with heaps of machinery. Through the sweat and fatigue, she looked down at the site in a moment of quiet, hopeful about this dream steadily trudging its way into reality.
“It’s really going to happen.”
The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon — which will be named the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, to honor a major donor — is expected to be completed by 2025.