Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wildlife Protection in Temecula: Progress Report

Michael H. Momeni

Mountain lions in our Southern California region are facing ultimate extinction caused by a shrinking gene pool, poaching, disease and the removal of cats deemed dangerous to domestic animals and a potential public safety threat.  This indictment has been exacerbated by the fragmentation of their territories as a consequence of expanded highway construction and ever increasing urban sprawl.
In the past several years, the Sierra Santa Margarita Group has identified the need to protect the area’s mountain lion population from further deaths on the freeway, genetic isolation and shrinkage of their habitat. Santa Margarita Group has identified 4 essential steps for a process to protect the natural balance of wildlife in our region:
1. Identifying the Essential Passages between the Two Mountain Ranges:
The following picture shows the region for the confluence of the Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and Santa Margarita River.  The lower part of the picture shows the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek Bridge. This location is an essential region for migration of wildlife within the Cleveland National Forest between the Trabuco District and Palomar District. 


The following picture shows the passageway under the bridge of the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek. The bridges can be easily and relatively cheaply converted to an off-limits wildlife passage. 

The condition of the space below the bridge is shown in the following picture:

The pictures vividly show examples of debris strewn near and under the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek Bridge.

2.  Removing the Trash from the Passage Area

Santa Margarita group along with some members of the community joined together in June, 2017, and, after several hours of work, partially removed trash from the western area of the bridge. 

3. Outreach Program to the Community for Site Control

On July 16, 2017, Pam Nelson organized a public visit to this area through outreach to our community.  The Santa Margarita Group has been concerned that intrusive land use would allow uncontrolled public access to this sensitive region, eliminating wildlife migration. Understanding the significance of this important habitat is crucial to the protection of the region. 

4. Community and Government Agency Participation

Pam Nelson organized the “wildlife crossing group” including the staff from Riverside County (several departments), California and U.S. Wildlife, Caltrans, Temecula City, and wildlife-focused non-profits.  The wildlife crossing group met on July 20th. The tour and brainstorming session resulted in setting up dates for future cleanups, restoration plans, funding discussions, and an increased interest in making the Temecula Creek underpass a viable wildlife crossing for I-15.

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