One of TCA’s major environmental initiatives was the completion of the Wildlife Protection Fence along State Route 241 and the ongoing monitoring of the fence’s effectiveness and the associated bridge undercrossings and large culverts efficacy. These findings will help TCA and other transportation agencies design and build future projects. The 10- to 12-foot-high fence was constructed to protect mountain lions, muledeer, coyotes and bobcats living in the Santa Ana Mountains from passing cars. In addition to shielding them from the road, the new fence, which spans both sides of a six-mile stretch of SR 241, also funnels them to existing wildlife bridges and culvert undercrossings that allow them safe passage to open spaces on either side of the road. The project was the result of a joint study with University of California, Davis into the movement and health of the area’s wildlife, including GPS tracking of mountain lions, and collaboration with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Want to learn more? View the poster we created showcasing the project to more than 500 transportation professionals and researchers at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in September 2015. A similar poster was presented at the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in September 2016.
KABC Reporter Rob Hayes, interviews TCA’s Chief Environmental Planning Officer to discuss the Agencies’ wildlife safety fence along the 241 Toll Road.
TCA purchased land near O’Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon in late 2017. Once slated for residential development, the property known as Saddle Club will be preserved as natural habitat in perpetuity, ensuring it will remain undeveloped for future generations. TCA balances the impact of construction of its roads and facilities by creating habitat in other parts of the region. The agency will “bank” the preserved habitat at Saddle Club and use it as credit for future projects, which could include adding interchanges or widening roads. This land east of the 241 Toll Road will be home to self-sustaining oak, coastal sage scrub and riparian habitats, and provide an important link for birds and animals to access a natural corridor extending to the Cleveland National Forest. Additionally, Saddle Club is planned to be the first TCA mitigation site to be open to the public for recreational use. Site use and restoration plans for Saddle Club are in progress.
TCA will continue to restore 15 acres of coastal sage and cactus scrub habitat and native perennial grassland at Strawberry Farms, located in Irvine and overlooking the Strawberry Farms Golf Course. Part of the larger Central/Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan area, the open space is home to several species such as the California gnatcatcher and the coastal cactus wren.
TCA oversees the ongoing management of this 1,158-acres of open space under existing agreements with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. Among TCA’s responsibilities are preserving, managing and restoring this preserved habitat, including weed control and scientific testing of different habitat management techniques. Before TCA purchased this property near Coto de Caza, the former grazing pasture was zoned for residential and golf course development. Now permanently protected as open space, the restored habitat supports important populations of the California gnatcatcher and coastal cactus wren. Several families of deer are usually spotted running throughout this site on any day.