2017-01-20 / Community

Wildlife zone would protect routes

By Hector Gonzalez

SAFE TRAVELS—A proposed Wildlife Corridor Zone could help divert animals away from county roads. This mountain lion, known as P-39, was struck and killed by a vehicle on the 118 Freeway last month. 
Courtesy of National Park Service SAFE TRAVELS—A proposed Wildlife Corridor Zone could help divert animals away from county roads. This mountain lion, known as P-39, was struck and killed by a vehicle on the 118 Freeway last month. Courtesy of National Park Service The Ventura County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to create a completely new zoning designation. A first of its kind, the proposed Wildlife Corridor Overlay Zone would establish permanent, protected routes for wildlife traveling to and from the Santa Monica Mountains and Los Padres National Forest.

We asked Supervisor Linda Parks, who originated the idea, to explain the proposal.

Can you explain exactly what a Wildlife Corridor Zone is? Would it be like a special assessment district, or a completely new zoning designation?

It would be a completely new zoning designation. The Wildlife Corridor Zone would do two things: One, it would formally identify major wildlife corridors on county zoning and land-use maps and, two, it would establish development standards for the zone that preserve the ability of wildlife to travel on undeveloped land from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Los Padres Forest. The ability for wildlife to cross between large natural land masses is critical to their survival.

Did you originate this idea?

Yes, and staff has been working on it for several years.

What’s the motivation behind creating a special zone for wildlife to travel on?

Wildlife already travel in these open space corridors, so in essence they created the wildlife corridor. Establishing safe passage along the existing wildlife corridors can make the difference as to whether species continue or decline in our region.

Some species, including mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, are essentially on an island of nature surrounded by freeways, roads and urban development that limit their ability to roam. This constriction of movement threatens wildlife by reducing genetic diversity and increasing incidents of roadkill.

Unobstructed wildlife corridors also enhance public safety. If development chokes off these corridors, wildlife disperses into urban areas, increasing interactions between wildlife and people and wildlife and domestic animals. Wildlife corridor zoning can also be used to identify measures, such as fencing, that would reduce car collisions with animals by channeling the animals to underpasses or overpasses instead of onto roads.

Would the zone be one certain route designated by the board for wildlife traveling from the mountains to the forest, or several corridors?

The area where the zone would be placed directly coincides with sophisticated mapping from the South Coast Missing Linkages Project, a collaborative effort by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, the state Resources Agency, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and South Coast Wildlands.

The Ventura County Wildlife Corridor Zone would act as an overlay zone, on top of existing zoning, in the unincorporated county. In our area the corridors connect large natural land masses in the Santa Monica Mountains with the Los Padres Forest. (See map.)

What if a route goes through private property? Or are we talking about only wilderness areas?

The wildlife corridors show where wildlife currently traverse, which by their natural preference is on undeveloped land. Ventura County is fortunate to have a development pattern of open space buffers between cities, and it is here in the unincorporated county where most of the wildlife corridors exist. Seeing that these corridors continue unobstructed is a key component of Ventura County’s environmental stewardship.

In the unincorporated area that the county oversees, the land is primarily very low density agricultural land or open space land, owned by agencies and private individuals. For example the Tierra Rejada Valley, which has open space zoning that allows as much as one unit per 10 acres, is mostly private land, as is agricultural zoned land which allows as much as one unit per 40 acres or as little as one unit per 160 acres.

What sort of development standards would be in line with a wildlife corridor zone?

Some examples of standards include building setbacks, fencing type and location, requirements regarding night lighting, and not planting invasive species.

Will the board vote on a first reading of the ordinance establishing the zone on Jan. 24?

The board will decide, at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24 at our normal board meeting, whether to go forward with the Wildlife Corridor Overlay Zone and, if so, direct that staff take it to the County Planning Commission for their recommendation, and then back to the board for a final vote.

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