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Plan for Wildlife Corridor Moves Forward

The Laguna Canyon Conservancy recently hosted Mike Ellzey, chief executive officer of the Great Park Corporation. Ellzey summaried changes to the Great Park master plan as a result of recent agreements between the developer, FivePoint Communities, and Irvine’s City Council. The new location and layout of the long-planned wildlife corridor was of particular concern by some in the audience. As president of Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., I have been directly involved in corridor negotiations and planning, and will try to clear up any misperceptions about the approved Consensus Wildlife Corridor Plan.

First of all, it is important to understand that the corridor plan covers only the central three segments of a five-segment corridor, the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor. These three segments pass through the closed El Toro MCAS base, and are known as the Great Park segments.

After a year of negotiations between Laguna Greenbelt and FivePoint Communities, a consensus corridor plan was drafted that satisfied a panel of independent wildlife movement experts, our coalition of local, statewide, and national environmental organizations, and the developer. This plan was subsequently endorsed by both federal and state wildlife agencies, and finally approved by Irvine’s City Council last November and incorporated in the city’s zoning codes last December.

In the new plan, two segments of the corridor are moved eastward, adjacent to the Borrego Creek flood control channel. The channel increases protection on one side of the corridor from possible intrusion by people or non-native animals. There was no loss of acreage in the move. The new alignment is somewhat shorter than the previous one, so the corridor will be wider on average (~600 feet). This is all to the good.

For the first time, there is an adopted plan, a funding source and a schedule for completion for the three central, most difficult, and most expensive segments.  We are pleased with the outcome of the negotiations, and will continue working with FivePoint Communities and the city of Irvine on a number of important associated issues as we move toward actual construction in a few years.

A dedicated website, www.wildlifecorridor.org, is up but not complete. We plan to post more detailed information about the adopted consensus plan shortly. For general information about us, please visit www.lagunagreenbelt.org.

If there are more questions, please email us at [email protected].

Elisabeth Brown, Irvine

The author is president of Laguna Greenbelt, Inc

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