Officials celebrate breaking ground on Highway 101 wildlife

A crowd of hundreds on Friday celebrated the groundbreaking of what’s billed as the world’s largest urban wildlife crossing, one that will span a 10-lane freeway in Agoura Hills and may help save an isolated mountain lion population from extinction.

Gov. Gavin Newsom joined local, state and federal legislators, wildlife biologists and others to celebrate the beginning of construction for the $87 million crossing over Highway 101, a dangerous barrier for mountain lions, mule deer and other wildlife in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

“We did it!” Beth Pratt, a longtime advocate, called out to the crowd.

Pratt, California director for the National Wildlife Federation, which spearheaded fundraising efforts, spoke from a stage surrounded by grass-covered hills and the rush of freeway traffic.

The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, as shown in this artist's rendering, is landscaped with native plants to look like natural habitat.  The bridge will stretch 210 feet over Highway 101 to give mountain lions, coyotes, deer and other wildlife a safe path to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.  It is expected to be completed by fall 2024.

“We are so honored to be here and celebrating with you all who looked at this impossible dream and like me said … we are not going to let this mountain lion population go extinct on our watch,” she said.

The planned bridge site near Liberty Canyon is one of the few places left in the area that has natural habitat on both sides of the 101. The land at this site is also publicly owned and protected from development.

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