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Rainn Wilson (and Ranger Rick) Want You to Help Build a Wildlife Crossing to Save Mountain Lions
Los Angeles is home to some of the worst traffic in the country, but it’s not just people that suffer from the gridlock. The region’s heavily traveled freeways threaten a population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, as trying to cross the road to find new habitat often means death. Twelve mountain lions in the area have been struck and killed by vehicles since research began in 2002 and a young cougar P32—the only known male to make it out of the Santa Monica Mountains recently—was tragically killed on Interstate 5 last month.
For many, P32’s death served as another rallying point for the #SaveLACougars campaign, an effort lead by the National Wildlife Federation and our partner, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, and supported by a large coalition and community of organizations, businesses, individuals and elected officials. The goal of the project, to build what could be the largest wildlife crossing in the world over the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon, is vital to ensuring a future for these remarkable animals.
The National Park Service has conducted research in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2003, and identified the Liberty Canyon corridor as a key area for mountain lions and other wildlife, and the ideal place for the crossing given it’s one of the last places with protected lands on both sides of the freeway. Jeff Sikich, one of the biologists working on the study, told National Wildlife, “Wildlife are great at telling us what areas are important to them. We have data points of cats going right up to the freeway and then turning around.”
Actor Rainn Wilson (The Office, Backstrom) voiced his support for this crossing in a new video, declaring “Let’s face it–LA traffic sucks even for cougars,” asking people to help with the cause. The video also stars NWF’s famous character Ranger Rick, along with the campaign’s poster child, P22, also known as the Hollywood lion and made famous by National Geographic photographer Steve Winter. P22 traveled from the Santa Monica Mountains and survived crossing two major freeways only to be trapped in a small urban park in Los Angeles, surrounded by roads.
The video also features some of the first images of the proposed crossing, as this week the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) released a ground breaking feasibility report by Caltrans that features the first conceptual designs and cost estimates. Earlier this year, NWF successfully applied on behalf of Caltrans for a seed grant from the State of California Coastal Conservancy (SCC), and they voted unanimously to grant $1 million to help fund the environmental assessment and engineering for the project.
The plight of P22—and his entire mountain lion family in the Santa Monica Mountains—has inspired many from around the world. But even with our first million, we still have a long way to go to make this crossing a reality! To be shovel ready by 2018, we need to raise $30 million.
As Rainn states, “Let’s give these animals the room they need to roam. Help save LA cougars—not the housewives, the mountain lions.”
Visit www.savelacougars.org to get involved.