The construction of the widely-anticipated Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is underway in California in addition to the launch of targeted statewide initiatives combating climate change.
In response to reports of mountain lions being struck and killed by oncoming vehicles across the 101 Highway, the wildlife crossing is set to provide a corridor above the freeway with a safe path for animals to roam. This $87 million project, funded collectively by the state, the Annenberg Foundation and other philanthropic organizations, will bridge together the Santa Monica Mountains with the Simi Hills mountain range in Los Angeles County.
According to researchers and wildlife experts, the timing of the wildlife crossing is especially critical due to the risk of extinction of mountain lions in the region.
“Our research has … predicted that within our lifetime, we could have a local extinction without connectivity. So this wildlife crossing could not have come at a better time,” National Park Service biologist Jeff Sikich said.
As a result of funding from the state and an urgent time frame for the crossing, the project was advanced by three years and is expected to be completed in 2025.
In addition, following legislation enacted by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 through Executive Order N-82-20, programs intended to “combat the climate and biodiversity crises” were launched on April 22. These initiatives, the Pathways to 30×30 program and Climate Smart Lands strategies, will be funded through a $768 million budget proposed by Newsom.
Through efforts to protect California’s natural and working lands, a team of scientific experts has defined eight land types that will be the focus of the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy, including areas such as forests and grasslands. When land sources are not properly maintained, threats to climate-vulnerable communities increase as droughts worsen, wildfires increase and sea levels rise.
Utilizing nature-based solutions, the strategy details methods to best approach each of the eight land systems. These climate solutions restore and protect natural resources, limit carbon emissions and work to promote awareness of climate management.
“Our innovative, Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy is a roadmap for restoring climate resilience in our natural systems and reducing the pollution that drives climate change,” California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld said.
Focusing on the state’s land and seascapes, the Pathways 30×30 program intends to conserve 30% of California’s water sources by 2030. As outlined in its three objectives, the initiative aims to protect biodiversity, mitigate climate change and expand nature access.
This vision will be carried out through the sustenance of clean energy sources, the strengthening of tribal partnerships, and the advancement of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. The program will work in collaboration with an appointed 30×30 Coordinating Committee composed of California biodiversity networks and councils, regional workgroups and coalitions, and the Ocean Protection Council.
“The California coast is home to blue carbon ecosystems, such as salt marshes and seagrass beds, that act as a natural solution to climate change by taking carbon out of the atmosphere every day,” WILDCOAST Conservation Director Angela Kemsley said. “A successful 30×30 initiative will enable stronger and longer-lasting protections for coastal and ocean ecosystems in order to adapt to climate change.”
Mariam Hasan is a City News Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.