VENTURA, Calif. March 13, 2019 — The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to adopt a first-of-its-kind ordinance to safeguard wildlife connectivity. The Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments supporting the ordinance and testified at the hearing.
Supervisors passed a strong version of the measure and set aside proposed amendments aimed at weakening it. The approved ordinance heightens protections for areas designated as important wildlife corridors and requires environmental review for developments that might degrade those areas. Wildlife corridors help mountain lions, California red-legged frogs and other animals maintain crucial genetic diversity and avoid being killed by cars.
“The ordinance is a major step forward in protecting Ventura County wildlife from habitat fragmentation, overdevelopment and car collisions,” said J.P. Rose, a staff attorney at the Center. “We hope other communities follow Ventura County’s lead in safeguarding wildlife as development pressure and climate change intensify. Ultimately we need state-led action to protect existing corridors and create wildlife crossings to save imperiled animals from becoming roadkill.”
Mountain lions are struggling as roads and development restrict their ability to roam over the large home ranges they need to thrive and maintain genetic diversity.
Government officials estimate that more than 100 mountain lions are killed every year on California roads, and a recent UC Davis study found that mountain lion deaths due to vehicle collisions have been increasing since 2015. Mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains also suffer from the lowest genetic diversity of any population in the West.
Mountain lions also help maintain biodiversity and control deer populations, which in turn reduces dangerous collisions between automobiles and deer. Adopting an ordinance that protects and enhances existing, natural corridors would improve the big cats’ chances of survival and facilitate greater biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.
On Jan. 31, 2019, the planning commission recommended approval of the ordinance with smaller, 100-foot setbacks from streams and exclusion of the Tierra Rejada Valley from the wildlife-protection area. But the Board of Supervisors decided to require stronger, 200-foot setbacks recommended by county staff and include Tierra Rejada Valley in the protection area.