NWF Launches #SaveLACougars Campaign

rally collin rr schookids
Students with NWF President and CEO Collin O’Mara, and Ranger Rick at the public rally for the #SaveLACougars campaign (Photo credit: Leigh Wyman)
Two years ago, I read the story of P-22, the mountain lion living in the middle of Los Angeles and immediately became intrigued. How could this big cat be surviving in the middle of the second largest city in the country?

I contacted one of the National Park Service researchers studying P-22, Jeff Sikich, and spent a day with him in Griffith Park, P-22’s home, an urban island surrounded on all sides by the city of Los Angeles. After hearing P-22’s story—his amazing crossing of two major freeways, his isolation in an area that represents about 3% of a normal-sized home range for him—and learning the threats cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains faced overall, I asked how we at National Wildlife Federation could help.

“Funny you ask,” Jeff replied. “Let me tell you about this crossing we need built.”

I’ve worked in both Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks and been involved with some remarkable wildlife projects. Yet nothing in my twenty-five year career as an environmental leader has inspired me more than helping to build what could be the largest wildlife crossing in the world over one of the busiest freeways in the country to help save a population of mountain lions.

p23 crossing road
Mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains are forced to cross busy highways and roadways to reach suitable habitat–many don’t survive the journey (Photo credit: National Park Service)
The plight of P22—and his entire mountain lion family in the Santa Monica Mountains—has inspired many others around the world. His story has been shared widely, from the LA Times, to the BBC and photographer Steve Winter captured the now famous photo of him in front of the Hollywood sign for National Geographic.

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P22, in the famous photo taken by photographer Steve Winter.
And also equally inspiring was the outpouring of support we received last week when NWF and our partner the Santa Monica Mountains Fund announced the kickoff of our #SaveLACougars campaign. Over 300 people from communities all around the Los Angeles area joined NWF President and CEO, Collin O’Mara, to show their support for building a wildlife crossing.

Rally attendees brought color posters to show support (Photo credit: Leigh Wyman)
“Mountain lions living in the Santa Monicas need our help,” Collin said at the rally. “Together, we can reconnect the critical habitat of these majestic, elusive cats, which has been fragmented by freeways and urban development. The broad support at today’s event demonstrates that there is the public will to transform the vision of a wildlife crossing over the 101 into a reality.”

Alongside Collin, Senator Fran Pavley, Assemblymember Richard Bloom, David Szymanski, Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, George Lange, Board Chair for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Linda Parks, Ventura County Supervisor, Barbara Marquez, Senior Environmental Planner for Caltrans and many others addressed the crowd and pledged their support to help get this crossing built.

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Student and Founder of Kids CLAW, River Simard, with Collin O’Mara and Senator Fran Pavley (Photo credit: CLAW)
River Simard, the ten year-old founder of Kids CLAW (Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife) spoke alongside the officials about his support for the crossing and passionately implored adults to act. Watch his speech on video here.

“I talk to other kids about the environment every day and I can tell you that no kid ever thinks it is a good idea to let wildlife die or change or stop coming just because someone wants to build a building or a freeway. This bridge is important to me because it means that grown-ups are going to preserve the wildlife for my kids and my kids’ kids.”

The rally concluded with Luke Stein and the fifth grade class at Woodlake Elementary Community Charter School presenting the first official donation to the campaign to Ranger Rick. With teacher Sherry Mangel-Ferber, last year this class produced a wonderful video animated with puppets about the need for a crossing.

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Luke Stein, from the Woodlake Elementary Community Charter School, presents NWF President Collin O’Mara and Ranger Rick the first official donation of the campaign. (Photo credit: Leigh Wyman)
I am both excited and extremely proud to be working on the #SaveLACougars campaign. It will take a village to get a project of this magnitude completed and I know that with our partner the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, along with an impressive collaboration of agencies, organizations, businesses and elected officials (see below), we’ll get this crossing built so that mountain lions and other wildlife have the room they need to roam.

beth p22 101
With my favorite mountain lion, P-22, at one of the LA freeways he crossed. (Photo credit: Jolene Hanson)

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More than two dozen agencies, organizations and businesses were present at the rally and support the building of the crossing:

The Bay Foundationwildlife corridor2
California State Parks
Californians for Population Stabilization
Citizens For Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW)
City of Agoura Hills
City of Calabasas
City of Malibu
City of Thousand Oaks
Coalition To Save Chesebro Meadow Wildlife Corridor
Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency
Conejo Recreation and Park District
Felidae Conservation Fund
Friends of Griffith Park

G2 Gallerywildlife corridor
Kids CLAW (Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife)
Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation of the Santa Monica Mountains
Mia Lehrer + Associates
Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
National Wildlife Federation
Assemblymember Richard Bloom
Representative Henry A. Waxman
Senator Fran Pavley
Senator Ted W. Lieu
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Third District
Old Agoura Homeowners Association
Peace 4 Animals

Poison Free Malibu
Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM)cougar sign rally
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
Santa Monica Mountains Fund
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Santa Monica Trails Council
Santa Susana Mountain Park Association
Save Open Space
Senator Fran Pavley
Southern California Wildlife
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks
Western Alliance for Nature
Woodlake Elementary Community Charter School

The Animal Ministry, Center for Spiritual Living Simi

San Fernando Valley Audubon Society

Liberty Canyon Homeowners Association