The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority announced Wednesday that it has taken title to 226 acres of donated open space in north Los Angeles County near Castaic Lake that will serve as a habitat linkage for wildlife to move under Interstate 5 between the Los Padres and Angeles National Forests.

The donation from Neil Nadler, one of the largest in the history of the MRCA, is in the canyon that separates the south- and north-bound lanes of I-5 as the freeway descends into the Santa Clarita Valley, according to Paul Edelman, the MRCA’s chief of natural resources and planning.

“Interstate 5 creates an over 30-mile-long wildlife movement barrier across the mountains between the Santa Clarita Valley and the beginning of the Grapevine,” Edelman said. “The donation land is vital for animals to safely cross that I-5 barrier because it leads into existing wildlife under-crossings. This will also set the stage for conservation of additional land to the north.”

Known as Marple Canyon, the property was designated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of an area with high conservation value. It supports a mix of vegetation types along a windy creek bed, while the slopes support grassland and coastal sage scrub.

Nadler had owned the property for more than 20 years and had developed plans for a business park and motocross tracks on most of the land, but biologists told him he needed to leave space for the wildlife corridor to the north, according to the MRCA.

“I am pleased and honored to be able to conserve this important portion of the Sierra Madre-Castaic wildlife linkage,” Nadler said. “Being an environmental advocate who understands how costly wildlife corridors can be, I’m especially grateful that I am in the position in my life to give back to our fragile ecosystem. I also want to thank Kristeen Penrod of South Coast Wildlands, and the other scientists who helped me over the last 23 years understand the Marple Canyon’s highest and best use is for everyone to appreciate the beauty and function as a critical element in wildlife movement.”

Two years ago, Nadler helped the MRCA purchase an adjacent seven-acre parcel that contains a tunnel used by wildlife beneath the south-bound lanes of I-5 and that allow animals to reach the new parkland. The MRCA will name the new parkland for Nadler.

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