Words by Smiley Team
An unusual and innovative history-making project in California will soon see wild animals able to cross the busy highway on their own custom bridge.
The green bridge will be built across the 101 highway near Los Angeles, connecting two parts of the Santa Monica mountains.
Construction will begin this month on the world’s largest wildlife overpass, called the Wallis Annenberg wildlife crossing, above one of California’s busiest roads.
The overpass will allow safe passage for lizards, snakes, toads and even mountain lions, with an acre of plants on either side and vegetated sound walls to dampen light and noise for nocturnal animals as they travel across.
“I’m a little dizzy still, but I feel relieved: we have the chance to give these mountain lions a shot at a future," says Beth Pratt, from the National Wildlife Federation, who spent the last decade planning the project.
At least 25 of the big cats have been killed on Los Angeles freeways since 2002, with one death just weeks ago.
This project has been in the making for over ten years and has been hailed by a California governor as an “inspiring example” of public-private partnership.
A groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction for the $90m crossing will take place on Earth Day, 22 April.
The project isn’t expected to be complete until early 2025 and the construction will be done during nights. Construction costs will be covered by around 60% private donations, with the rest coming from public funds set aside for conservation purposes.
The crossing is designed to seamlessly integrate into the mountains, offering big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe way to travel.
Robert Rock, a landscape architect with Living Futures in Chicago who led the design, says this nature-centred type of construction makes it unusual among other wildlife bridges and underpasses around the world, which are typically made of cement and steel.
This one has been designed to blend into the environment on both sides with a seamless flow of plants.
“As both a tool for and a symbol of connection, it will stand as an alluring challenge to future generations to pick up the mantle of design to bridge the gaps elsewhere in our world,” Rock says.
Beth Pratt has called the bridge an opportunity for millions of people to see how humans can live more harmoniously with nature.
“Someone could be in rush-hour traffic, and there could be a mountain lion right above them,” Beth says. “I think that’s such a hopeful image, and one that inspires me that we can right some of these great wrongs.”
Photo credit: Living Habitats LLC/National Wildlife Federation
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