Fire weather in February? Creeks and springs are still running from last month’s rain, and the mountains are lush and green for the first time in a year, but an intense dome of high pressure is building over the West Coast this week, and it could bring an extended period of record heat, fueling new fire fears. Now would be a good time to check emergency supplies like batteries and water, update go bags, and go over evacuation plans.
The temperature is going up but COVID-19 numbers finally appear to be going down in Los Angeles County. The number of hospitalizations and new cases declined last week, but rates remain high, raising concerns over the influx of football fans for Super Bowl Sunday, on February 13. Coronavirus isn’t the only potential Super Bowl concern. Expect traffic to be heavy throughout Los Angeles and build in some extra time for travel.
We’re taking a look at some of the roots—and routes—of local traffic and travel in this issue of TNT, with a drive back in time to take a look at the evolution of Topanga Canyon Blvd. For our Changemaker series in this issue, we’ll be traveling far from home to explore an amazing land conservation effort in South America that has its roots in California.
There was some good news on a couple of local environmental issues this week. The Liberty Canyon wildlife bridge project received a $1 million contribution from Boeing, which is the current owner of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory at the other end of Topanga Canyon Blvd. Before the highway was built, the mountain lion populations of the Santa Susana Mountains and the Santa Monica Mountains could disperse through both ranges. The bridge will provide a path for mountain lions and other animals to once again move between the fragmented wilderness areas. Fundraising for the overpass continues, and the project is set to break ground this spring.
Reconnecting fragmented habitat is critically important for the survival of wildlife, but preventing additional fragmentation is also key. In an important ruling for the conservation community, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against logging interests in the Las Padres National Forest near Mt. Pinos. The ruling provides a reprieve for 1,100 acres of old-growth forest near the Ventura-Kern county line, but the issue isn’t resolved. The case will be sent back to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for another hearing.
Longtime residents of the Santa Monica Mountains remember and perhaps even took part in protests in the 1970s over offshore oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay off the coast of Malibu and Topanga. Local activists prevailed, in large part due to the catastrophic destruction caused by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.
Now, after decades of conflict between environmental activists and the oil industry, eight offshore rigs in Santa Barbara County will be decommissioned over the next ten years. “It seems miraculous that the coastal horizon may one day be clear of the platforms that have formed a familiar sight from Santa Barbara to Orange County for 50 years,” writes Jean Yamamura, who broke the story in the Santa Barbara Independent, www.independent.com
It’s a major environmental victory not just for Santa Barbara, but for the entire South Coast of California. The Woolsey Fire took place in 2018, but the recovery process is still far from complete. The Santa Monica Mountains Fund invites everyone to participate in a special, fundraising 10k/5k/1k run at Paramount Ranch on March 12. Funds raised at the event will help repair and restore the historic park, which was badly damaged during the fire. To register to run, or make a donation, visit www.betterunite.com/SAMOFund-runforparamountranch