The Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act requires Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify wildlife barriers and prioritize crossings when building or improving roads and highways.
By Laura Friedman, for CalMatters
Association member Laura Friedman Represents the 43rd assembly district.
Not many of us have seen a mountain lion up close and personal, yet lions have a distinct presence among us. From safety cam footage to social media posts of the P-22 – the famous mountain lion of Southern California – you might think mountain lions are thriving. You will be wrong.
Scientists fear that cougars (as they are sometimes called) could become extinct within decades in the areas where they now roam as their grass and genes continue to shrink. Fast cars, rat poisoning, and fragmented habitats are just some of the deadly challenges facing mountain lions and other endangered species. When a lion known to biologists as the P-54 was hit and killed in June, its death marked the loss of three generations of mountain lions on the dangerous roads of the Santa Monica Mountains. Her son had died months earlier and her mother had died in 2018. A month later, the P-89 died on Highway 101 in Los Angeles, becoming the fourth cougar in the area to die in a car crash in five months.
This bitter reality led me to join the members of the association how much And the Kevin Mullen To provide Assembly Bill 2344, which will bring more wildlife crossings into our highway system. By prioritizing and investing in bridges, underpasses and other significant improvements, we can make our roads safer for wildlife and drivers.
Butterflies, foxes, desert turtles, California skunks, and other wildlife have lost their ability to move freely across their native ranges due to poor road planning and development.
The UC Davis Road Environment Center It tracks vehicle collisions among wildlife and identifies hot spots on our highways. From 2016 to 2020, more than 44,000 wildlife vehicle crashes were reported on California roads, resulting in human deaths, injuries, and property damage. Collisions with wildlife are thought to be largely underreported.
Earlier this year, I joined the groundbreaking celebration of the Agoura Hills of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which will be the largest wildlife bridge in the world when completed in 2025. A project like this should inspire us to do better across the state. our bill Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Actwould require Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify wildlife barriers and prioritize crossings when building or improving roads and highways.
These projects can be as simple as improving existing canals or installing a directional fence to facilitate the movement of wildlife. They can also be bridges and tunnels in areas with high rates of wildlife vehicle collisions and where movement of endangered species is restricted.
Establishing a protocol for state agencies to collect road data is critical to this effort. We have to be smart about allocating resources so that we can prioritize the most dangerous roads and make them safer for motorists and wildlife.
I know my colleagues in the legislature believe that improving road safety is a bipartisan priority. In states that are ahead of California in implementing crossings, road vehicle collisions have been reduced by up to 98% in transit areas. Simply put, wildlife crossings work. The question is: Are public safety and environmental protection worth the investment?
Our voters will say yes, because Californians love and appreciate our state’s rich biodiversity.
a Study led by the University of California Published earlier this year, it was found that the reproductive signs of inbreeding in southern California mountain lions, in particular an abnormal sperm rate of 93%, are more serious than previously thought. Without safe routes for these iconic cats, the maze of highways and evolution of the sprawl would only prolong genetic isolation and lead to local extinction.
It is frustrating to witness the retreat of mountain lions knowing that wildlife crossings are an effective way to help them thrive. We must not sit on this knowledge and do nothing: we must make wildlife crossings a priority.