Wildlife Corridor

Establishing a link between the Laguna Greenbelt and other Orange County open spaces

Current Status: In Progress | Start Date: May 2011 | Expected Completion: September 2016 | Project Head: Hallie Jones

Dr. Elisabeth Brown, Laguna Canyon Foundation Vice-president and biologist, knows how vital it is to establish a link between the Laguna Greenbelt/ South Coast Wilderness and other Orange County open space. “Historically a wildlife corridor existed between the Cleveland National Forest and coastal open space. A wildlife corridor of native vegetation creates conditions that encourage wildlife migration between open space areas. This helps local wildlife find mates that are genetically different. Corridors may also help facilitate the re-establishment of wildlife populations in areas where they have been reduced or eliminated due to random events; i.e., fires or disease.

This will moderate some of the worst effects of habitat fragmentation. Essentially a wildlife corridor is a way to ensure the long-term health and vitality of our open space ecosystems. Without it the long-term survival of local animal species is in question, especially in the coastal area,” said Dr. Brown

For several years, the Laguna Canyon Foundation and Laguna Greenbelt Inc. have worked to re-create a wildlife corridor connecting the Santa Ana Mountains to the South Coast Wilderness/Laguna Greenbelt. Without this linkage and the genetic exchange it facilitates, the health of the local ecosystem will erode– initially affecting larger animals such as bobcats, coyotes and deer.

New obstacles now threaten this corridor. A 900-acre parcel originally planned to be the El Toro Wildlife Refuge, a key component of this corridor, has now become an active training area for the FBI – with live ammunition exercises, firing ranges, and tactical training. We are working hard to ensure the FBI understands our concerns and honors the original intent of the land. In addition, new proposals to increase housing densities adjacent to the “Great Park” threaten the viability of the corridor. However, through multi-agency collaboration and with funding from our generous donors, we are optimistic that these challenges can be overcome and a wildlife corridor can be established.