For Immediate Release, September 1, 2020

Contact:

J.P. Rose, Center for Biological Diversity, (408) 497-7675, jrose@biologicaldiversity.org
Leonora Camner, Abundant Housing LA, (646) 512-2093, leonora@abundanthousingla.org

Officials Urged to Strengthen ‘Connect SoCal’ Plan to Protect Mountain Lions, Discourage Development in Fire-prone Areas

Related Information:

Saving California mountain lions.

LOS ANGELES— Conservation and housing groups today urged the Southern California Association of Governments to amend a land-use plan covering six Southern California counties to better safeguard connectivity for imperiled mountain lions, meet the state’s climate goals, and discourage development in fire-prone areas.

The regional governments association will meet Sept. 3 to consider adopting the “Connect SoCal” plan, which sets the framework for how transportation funds will be spent in the region over the coming years.

As today’s letter from 18 groups to the association notes, while the plan has some positive aspects, it includes many highway projects that will push already-imperiled Southern California mountain lions closer to extinction by fragmenting their habitat. Yet the plan does not require transportation officials to include appropriate wildlife crossings to be in compliance with the plan.

“The plan streamlines approval for cougar-killing freeway expansions while failing to require wildlife crossings or other effective protections,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “SoCal’s big cats can’t afford to wait around while local officials engage in a game of bureaucratic hot potato. Reckless highway building could push these beautiful animals over the edge.”

The plan would also help pave the way for sprawl development like the 12,000-acre “Centennial” project. Proposed by the Wall Street-backed Tejon Ranch Company in fire-prone isolated wildlands on the far northern edge of the county, the development has been criticized by state climate officials for “substantially conflict[ing] with the state’s climate goals.” In a step backward for sustainability, the governments association recently added Centennial into the plan.

“Climate change is real and we are already seeing the consequences,” said Leonora Camner, executive director of Abundant Housing LA. “Southern California needs to make sure the region's planning addresses our climate goals by concentrating homes near job centers and urban coastal areas, and not in fire-prone sprawl.”

The plan does little to steer development away from high fire zones and instead envisions 41,546 acres of new “greenfield” development, even as record-breaking wildfires in the urban-wildland interface rage throughout the state.

These issues were repeatedly raised in meetings and in previous letters, and the association released some improvements to the plan on Aug. 29. Today’s letter urges it to further strengthen the plan to encourage sustainable communities and coexistence with California’s unique biodiversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Abundant Housing LA is committed to education and advocacy on the affordability, livability, and sustainability benefits of more housing. We want lower rents and a more sustainable and prosperous region, where everyone has more choices of where to live and how to pursue their dreams.