CASTAIC (CBSLA) – A businessman has donated 226 acres of parkland to the state of California which serves as a passage for wildlife across the 5 Freeway near the Santa Clarita Valley.
The land — which sits between the northbound and southbound sides of the 5 Freeway, west of Castaic Lake – was donated by Neil Nadler to the Mountains and Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA), it was announced Wednesday.
According to the MRCA, the land serves as a “habitat linkage” for wildlife between the Los Padres National Forest to the west and the Angeles National Forest to the east.
“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,” said Paul Edelman, MRCA Chief of Natural Resources and Planning, in a statement. “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.”
Nadler had initially planned to build a motocross track and business park on the land, according to the MRCA, before being advised by biologists that the land was important for wildlife movements. In 2016, Nadler helped the MRCA acquire an adjacent 7-acre piece of land which contains a tunnel below the southbound 5 Freeway which is used by wildlife.
This marks one of the largest land donations in MRCA history. It comes as the region’s freeway network and shrinking habitat has served to isolate the mountain lion population in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. Eighteen mountain lions have been killed on a freeway or road in the area since 2002, according to the National Parks Service.
Caltrans has proposed building a wildlife bridge across the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills that would allow animals to travel between the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.