The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday urging it to reconsider the controversial Northlake housing development after a mountain lion was photographed in a wildlife corridor that will be blocked by the new construction.
County supervisors approved the project last year, after the developer claimed no mountain lions use the corridor.
The cougar photos were captured last month by a wildlife camera operated by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which is using a grant by the Wildlife Conservation Board to enhance habitat in the corridor.
“This holiday season we’re asking county officials to reconsider their plans to block this vital corridor and give mountain lions the gift of freedom to roam,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the center. “For decades politicians have let our beloved local mountain lions suffer death by a thousand cuts from habitat fragmentation and development. It’s time for county supervisors to put a stop to the tragic loss of these wild cats.”
Roads and development are causing genetic isolation among local mountain lions. Researchers with the National Park Service, UC Davis and UCLA have determined that without improved connectivity, populations in the Santa Monica mountains could go extinct within 50 years. The Northlake development would further degrade connectivity in this critical area.
In April, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously that mountain lions in Los Angeles County, as well as other Southern California populations, be granted candidacy status and move toward protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
The Northlake development would bury more than 3.5 miles of Grasshopper Creek, a pristine stream that feeds into Southern California’s last free-flowing river, the Santa Clara. The site is also a designated “very high fire hazard” severity zone, and multiple wildfires have burned the proposed project footprint over the past few years. Supervisors Janice Hahn, Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis voted in favor of the development last year, while Supervisor Sheila Kuehl opposed it.
The center and allies are challenging the development in court, where county attorneys have asked the court to exclude the photos of the mountain lion using the crossing.