Laguna Greenbelt Taps Advisory Group to Consult on Irvine-Laguna Wildlife Corridor

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A family of bobcats in Laguna Beach. Courtesy of Al Esquerra

Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. has launched a 12-member Science Advisor Group to serve as technical advisors to complete the Irvine-Laguna Wildlife Corridor, one of the country’s first urban wildlife corridors.

Group members specialize in wildlife biology, wildlife corridor design, and wildlife-related public policy. They’ll advise Laguna Greenbelt on scientific research, design improvements to the Corridor, and creating a Wildlife Safety Design Guidelines model applicable to developments adjacent to wildlife corridors. Laguna Greenbelt expects lessons learned will make for a better partnership with developer FivePoint, the lead funder and builder for a section of the Wildlife Corridor that will run through former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

The Advisor Group’s members include Wayne Spencer, chief scientist at the Conservation Biology Institute; Winston Vickers, veterinarian at UC Davis’ Wildlife Health Center, and ecologist  Tanya Diamond and wildlife researcher Ahiga Snyder of Pathways for Wildlife.

While Laguna Greenbelt has always worked with experts on a case-by-case basis, this is the first time such an expert group will formally be associated on an ongoing basis.

Advisor Milan Mitrovich, senior conservation biologist at ICF International, said the Irvine-Laguna Wildlife Corridor will serve as a critical link between protected coastal areas and the foothills and mountains of Orange County. About 22,000 acres of protected open space is presently isolated along Orange County’s coastline. The protected resources, recognized as part of the California Floristic Province, constitute a truly iconic area of the southern California coast, Mitrovich said in a prepared statement.

Estimated to cost over $100 million considering the cost of land, design, construction, and future management, the Corridor has been over 20 years in the making. The project has been championed by stalwarts in the local environmental community and supported by elected officials, and led by Laguna Greenbelt, to create a unique opportunity to reclaim developed land for wildlife movement.

The Corridor was made possible by the 1999 closure and then subsequent redevelopment of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The project will also be the product of public-private partnerships with Irvine, Laguna Beach, the Irvine Co., and FivePoint.

More information about the Irvine-Laguna Wildlife Corridor project and the Science Advisors can be found at wildlifecorridor.org.

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