CALIFORNIA — The National Wildlife Federation released new images of the upcoming wildlife crossing project in the Santa Monica Mountains near Liberty Canyon. The project is on track to begin construction in 2021. 

The project is part the “#SaveLACougars” campaign, which aims to prevent wildlife, especially mountain lions, from straying onto the nearby 101 Freeway and being hit by vehicles. The project consists of an overpass structure that will connect the mountains and provide a safe spot for animals crossing the area.

“The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon is no longer just a visionary idea, but quickly advancing toward completion,” the National Wildlife Federation website says. “Building on the significant historic efforts, we are just a few years out from reconnecting this vital habitat corridor for mountain lions and other local wildlife populations.”

Overview of the overpass project’s design (Photo: National Wildlife Federation).

The project is a public-private partnership initiative that includes Caltrans, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Caltrans and landscape architectural practice company Living Habitats LLC have been collaborating to develop the design of the overpass, which will span over ten lanes of the U.S. 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills.

“The crossing will be approximately 165 feet wide and because it will span 210 feet over ten lanes of pavement of the U.S. 101 freeway, it will rely on robust engineering and an innovative landscape design that will blend the structure into the surrounding mountain habitat,” the Federation said. “With as many as 300,000 cars passing through the freeway site daily, the crossing will also call for vegetated barriers to reduce the impact of vehicle traffic noise and roadway light on wildlife movement.”

Graphic of species that inhabit the area around the proposed overpass (Photo: National Wildlife Federation).

Beth Pratt, California Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation and leader of the “#SaveLACougars” campaign, said the campaign’s partners have been working on the project for years.

“With the addition of Living Habitats and the world-renowned experts they bring, recognized as the top in their field, we are in a position to not only build the largest crossing in the world, but also the very best,” Pratt said in a statement. “We owe it to the mountain lions and all wildlife to ensure their future in the Santa Monica Mountains.”

The crossing will support wildlife and provide the habitat, shelter, food and water that individual species need to thrive, according to the National Wildlife Federation. The structure will be covered in nearly one acre of native vegetation, which includes acorns and mushrooms seeds, and native oak and willow trees.

“This crossing will save the local mountain lion population from extinction, stand as a global model for urban wildlife conservation — and show us that it’s possible for a structure of this magnitude to be built in a such a densely populated urban area,” Pratt added.

The team behind the crossing project estimates that it will be completed by 2023 if it remains on track.