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World’s Largest Wildlife Crossing Underway in Southern California

World’s Largest Wildlife Crossing Underway in Southern California

Billed as what will soon be the world’s largest animal bridge, the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is currently under construction in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. Replete with native plant species, the crossing will help protect mountain lions and other animals from dangerous vehicle traffic on the surrounding freeways. Once complete, it will be about 210 feet long and traverse 10 lanes of highway, according to The New Yorker.

“We did it,” Beth Pratt, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, said at a recent groundbreaking ceremony. “For years to come, this wildlife crossing will be admired and studied as proof that humans and wild animals can coexist.”

The fundraising campaign, which includes public and private donors, has a goal of more than $100 million. The bridge is named after heiress and philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, a major contributor to the project.

In addition to the National Wildlife Federation, the state agencies involved in planning the crossing include CalTrans, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

Researchers say that without intervention the local mountain lion population could face extinction in the next 50 years. There is one, dubbed “P-22,” who agency representatives are particularly keen on protecting.

P-22 was first spotted by a wildlife biologist in Griffith Park over a decade ago. The animal had risked his life crossing two highways, the 405 and the 101, in order to get there, only to find that the journey had cut him off from the rest of his species.

The National Park Service reports that two dozen mountain lions have been hit by cars and killed on freeways in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002. Wildlife crossings offer a feasible solution, as they provide safe passage for animals without inconveniencing humans.

“We can begin to make the land whole again for all,” Wallis Annenberg said at the groundbreaking. “We can share this earth instead of claiming it and dominating it. We can coexist side by side.”

Construction on the bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

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