Last month the Ventura County Board of Supervisors heard from county staff about a proposal to protect habitat connectivity and wildlife movement corridors. The goal of the proposed plan was to “Improve countywide habitat connectivity between protected resource areas such as the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Los Padres National Forest.” This would be achieved by officially designating several corridors identified by South Coast Wildlands and other organizations during a project in 2006 and exploring options to ensure that development in those zones would not impede wildlife movement. The idea originated with Supervisor Linda Parks, an avid supporter of open space and other conservation efforts.
The need for wildlife corridors has come into the spotlight recently due to the loss of a mountain lion mother and two of her cubs while crossing State Route 118 just east of Simi Valley. The mountain lions were likely making their way to the Los Padres National Forest from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. There is a large population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, and the next closest viable population is found in the Los Padres.
Protected wildlife corridors are critical to improve the safety of wildlife traveling to habitats with other populations with which they can mate. There have been 17 mountain lions killed by cars in this area since 2002, all of them being struck when attempting to cross Hwy 101, State Rte. 118, Hwy 126, I-5, I-405, or I-210. As habitat for these and other species becomes increasingly fragmented by urban development, wildlife will be at greater risk of being killed by cars in addition to reduced genetic diversity in individual populations–an important factor for the long-term viability of a species.
ForestWatch and many other conservation organizations from around the region attended the meeting to voice support for the plan, which would improve habitat connectivity between the Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area as well as the Angeles National Forest. Despite concern from local farmers whose properties were within the proposed corridors, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of directing county planners to begin investigating and developing new development standards that would apply to the wildlife corridors identified in the 2006 study. The process will include a public outreach program, environmental review, and public hearings. We look forward to working with the county to ensure that the wildlife corridors and development standards will maximize wildlife movement and safety between these important public lands.