AGOURA HILLS, Calif. (CNS) -- Philanthropists Joann and Frank Randall of Newport Beach have made a $5 million donation to the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing project near Agoura Hills, officials announced Saturday.
The crossing will span over 10 lanes of the 101 Freeway in Liberty Canyon when completed in 2025, and aims to provide a connection between the small population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and the larger and genetically diverse populations to the north.
Decades of road construction and development have been deadly for animals trying to cross, and have created islands of habitat that have genetically isolated wildlife from bobcats to birds and lizards.
Wildlife advocates hope the crossing can save the threatened local population of mountain lions from extinction. They've also characterized the future structure as "a global model for urban wildlife conservation" that will "benefit the wildlife and ecology of the area for generations to come."
The $85 million project will be the largest crossing of its kind in the world, stretching 210 feet over the freeway.
"We applaud the Joann and Frank's leadership with this generous gift and contribution to the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "This visionary and monumental public-private partnership broke ground thanks to people like Joann and Frank. We also hope this will inspire other philanthropic leaders to join them in getting our campaign to our goal to make the wildlife crossing whole."
Officials said the gift will help ensure that critical components of the project are funded such as wildlife crossing design and engineering expertise, National Park Service ongoing landmark wildlife research, and most notably, a future educational overlook on a trail near the crossing. The overlook, which will have interpretive panels explaining about the project and area wildlife, will bear their name.
"Joann and Frank truly care about wildlife and wild places, and have left a significant legacy not just for this wildlife crossing but for conservation," said Beth Pratt, California regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation and leader of the #SaveLACougars campaign. "They are truly conservation heroes. I am honored to also call them friends and can attest to their dedication and commitment to protecting the natural world."
More information about the campaign can be found at savelacougars.org.
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