Funding Matches $25 Million Conservation Challenge Grant from Annenberg Foundation, Leaving Campaign with $6.5 Million to Raise to Start Construction on Schedule
LOS ANGELES – The California Wildlife Conservation Board has granted the National Wildlife Federation $20 million for the construction of the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon in the Los Angeles area. Combined with a $5 million dollar grant awarded by the board in 2020, the WCB has now matched the $25 million Conservation Challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation. This leaves the #SaveLACougars campaign with $6.5 million to raise in order to start construction on the landmark conservation project before the end of this year.
“I am so gratified that the Wildlife Conservation Board is joining in making a major contribution to the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon, which is so needed in our region,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President, and CEO of Annenberg Foundation. “Wildlife crossings restore ecosystems that had been fractured and disrupted. They reconnect lands and species that are aching to be whole. I believe these crossings go beyond mere conservation, toward a kind of environmental rejuvenation that is long overdue. It's a model for the kind of public-private partnerships that can heal our environment for the long haul. Thanks to this extraordinary commitment, California is now in the vanguard of that change. And, of course, I am so proud to be helping the animals and ecosystem to address a global biodiversity hotspot with what is believed to be the largest urban wildlife crossing in the world.”
“This is a huge step forward,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “Not only will Liberty Crossing be the largest wildlife crossing of its kind in the world, it is emblematic of the bold and creative solutions we need to protect California’s wildlife as our state continues to grow. Nature-based solutions like Liberty Crossing are also essential for combatting the climate crisis and our work to conserve 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030. The National Wildlife Federation and all local leaders and groups working together on this effort deserve great credit. We need more of these landmark collaborations to tackle the challenges we now face together.”
“Wildlife are facing unprecedented challenges in California from the impacts of climate change such as historic drought, heat and fires,” noted John Donnelly, director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “One of the main strategic priorities for the Wildlife Conservation Board is enhancing connectivity throughout the state to increase the resiliency of both flora and fauna to these challenges. We are pleased to provide this grant to a project that will connect an entire regional ecosystem and help ensure we preserve the incredible biodiversity of the Santa Monica Mountains.”
“The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon will be the largest in the world, and we cannot thank California Governor Gavin Newsom, and the state legislature enough — especially Senator Henry Stern, Assembly member Richard Bloom, Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Laura Friedman and California Natural Resources Secretary, Wade Crowfoot — as well as the California Wildlife Conservation Board director John Donnelly and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham, for working to match the historic private investment by Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “As the National Wildlife Federation works to restore wildlife corridors across the nation, the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon is the absolute best example in the world of how we can reconnect fragmented wildlife habitat even in the most dense urban areas.”
“Time is running out for these mountain lions,” said Beth Pratt, California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation and leader of the #SaveLACougars campaign. “All that stands between us and groundbreaking is $6.5 million — we hope other philanthropists will step up and get us past the finish line so these remarkable cats can have a future in the Los Angeles area.”
The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon is a project for the next century, and the structure will endure for decades, providing a lasting benefit to wildlife for generations to come. Two decades of study by the National Park Service in the Los Angeles area has shown roads and development are not only proving deadly for animals trying to cross, but have also created islands of habitat that can genetically isolate all wildlife — from bobcats to birds and lizards. This visionary wildlife crossing will preserve biodiversity across the region by re-connecting an integral wildlife corridor, and most critically, help save a threatened local population of mountain lions from extinction. Without intervention, they could vanish from the area within our lifetime. In April of 2020, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously voted to advance a petition to declare this population of cougars as threatened under the state’s Endangered Species Act for final consideration.
When complete, the crossing will be the largest in the world, the first of its kind in California, and will serve as a global model for urban wildlife conservation. As evidenced from decades of wildlife crossing projects across the world, such as the successful structures in Banff National Park, and the array of animals seen using an overpass in Utah in a recent viral video, wildlife crossings work. As a major green infrastructure project for the state of California, construction for the crossing will generate jobs in the region and economic benefits into the future.
The wildlife crossing is a public-private partnership of monumental scope that has leveraged the expertise and leadership of dozens of organizations and institutions. The core partners include Caltrans, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation. The project partners also added a world-renowned design team led by a landscape architectural practice, Living Habitats LLC, that collaborates with Caltrans and coordinates with a broad team of wildlife crossing experts in the planning and design development of the wildlife crossing.
To learn more about the #SaveLACougars campaign to build the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon visit https://savelacougars.org/.
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