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Wildlife Crossing Over 101 Freeway Receives Record $25 Million Annenberg Challenge Grant

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101 Freeway Wildlife Crossing
Photo Courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation

A record $25 million conservation challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation to the National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign to build a wildlife crossing in the Los Angeles area will help the landmark project break ground later this year.

The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon over the 101 Freeway — which will be the largest wildlife crossing in the world — will reconnect a long-fragmented ecosystem, a biodiversity hotspot, and help protect the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife that make their home in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The bridge is the first urban crossing of its scale – spanning 210 feet over ten lanes of highway and pavement, along with an access road – and is the first significantly funded through private donations along with public support. The #SaveLACougars campaign to build the crossing will serve as a model for urban wildlife conservation efforts across the globe. 

With this donation, the campaign has raised over $44 million to date, and needs to secure an estimated $35 million to unlock the Annenberg Challenge Grant and to break ground in November.

“This incredible conservation challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation — the largest ever received by the National Wildlife Federation — puts us closer to breaking ground this year. Wallis Annenberg’s grant will protect this global biodiversity hotspot  – recognized as one of only 36 biodiversity hotspots worldwide – and ensure that California’s iconic mountain lions and other wildlife can find the food and mates they need to survive by reconnecting the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills and beyond,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation in a statement. “Thank you also to the visionary leadership of the intrepid Beth Pratt as well as every donor who is making this transformative project a reality.” 

The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon will take place at the US-101 freeway where it runs through the city of Agoura Hills. The 101 freeway is a heavily travelled commuter route that serves the Greater Los Angeles area; connects Los Angeles and Ventura Counties; and acts as the primary access route to and from downtown Los Angeles, various residential communities, and tourist destinations in Los Angeles, as well as the central California coast. 

This location is a formidable and virtually impenetrable barrier for many wildlife species including mountain lions, bobcats, gray foxes, coyotes, and mule deer that inhabit and travel between the Santa Monica Mountains, the Simi Hills, and the Santa Susana Mountains – over 300,000 cars pass through this freeway site daily.

The wildlife crossing will feature robust engineering and an innovative landscape design that will blend the structure into the surrounding mountain habitat and will include vegetated barriers to reduce the impact of vehicle traffic noise and roadway light on wildlife movement.

As evidenced from decades of wildlife crossing projects across the world, such as the successful structures in Banff National Park, and the array of animals seen using an overpass in Utah in a recent viral video, wildlife crossings work. The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon responds to two decades of National Park Service research, and the need to create a vital connection for the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife that make their home in the Santa Monica Mountains. As a major green infrastructure project for the state of California, construction for the crossing will generate jobs in the region and economic benefits into the future. 

To learn more about the #SaveLACougars campaign and its efforts to build the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon visit here.

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Community Remembers Fallen Firefighter Tory Carlon Killed In Agua Dulce Shooting

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Firefighter Tory Carlon Agua Dulce Shooting (1)
Photo Courtesy of the L.A. County Fire Department

The community celebrated the life of fallen firefighter Tory Carlon, who was killed while at his station in an Agua Dulce shooting, with a service at The Forum on Thursday. 

Carlon was remembered as a loving father, husband and dedicated public servant who “was truly loved by our department,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

“This loss is extremely heartbreaking and tough, but also what remains in the hearts of many of us is Tory and how fondly we remember him for the man that he was,” Osby said.

Bagpipers and a drumline opened the ceremony at the iconic Inglewood stadium, filled with friends, family and fellow firefighters. 

John Denton, a chaplain for the Los Angeles Fire Department, led the prayer and added he was able to really get to know Carlon through his family. 

Carlon was a member of the department for over 20 years, who started as an explorer, then moved onto the United States Forest Service before joining L.A. County. 

Osby spoke about the “fire family,” noting the support shown at Joslyn Carlon’s graduation where hundreds of firefighters showed support for the young woman who just lost her father.

“Words cannot express how I miss seeing his smile,” Joslyn said at the memorial. “I looked up to him in so many ways, we had such a special daddy, daughter relationship.”

Captain David Gillotte, president of L.A. County Fire Fighters Local 1014, said to the hundreds of department members in the crowd there was “strength in our solidarity.” 

Carlon was a “jokester,” who made everyone smile at the station and made the world a better place, Gillotte said. 

“My only with is I said this in person, but I think you know, I love you,” said Firefighter-Paramedic Gary Reichman, a longtime friend.

On Tuesday, the department honored Carlon with a flag ceremony at Fire Station No. 131 in Palmdale to dedicate the Stars and Stripes which were raised during his “last assignment.”

After the ceremony, the flag was presented to his family, remembering the firefighter taken too soon. 

Firefighter Tory Carlon Agua Dulce Shooting (2)
Photo Courtesy of the L.A. County Fire Department

Just before 11 a.m. on June 1, an off-duty firefighter opened fire at Station 81 in Agua Dulce. 

Two firefighters were struck by gunfire, with Carlon sustaining fatal injuries. 

The second victim, Captain Arnie Sandoval, was in “critical, but stable” condition after the shooting.

“We all recognize that the work that our firefighters and firefighter-paramedics do is a very dangerous and arduous profession, and in many times, they put their lives in danger to protect them and serve others when they receive 911 calls for service, but yet as a fire chief, I never thought that when our firefighters face danger that they would face that danger in one of our community fire stations,” Osby said on the day of the incident.

The off-duty firefighter was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his residence after setting the building ablaze, according to the fire chief. 

Carlon leaves behind his wife, Heidi, and three young daughters.

“Everyone who knew Tory, loved him. He was an extremely dedicated father and husband who brought a sense of calm to everyone,” Deborah Stilson wrote in a GoFundMe. “He absolutely loved being a firefighter and to serving others. His family and friends are devastated by this loss.”

To support the Carlon family, visit here.

Note: This story has been updated with additional quotes from the memorial service.

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Six Flags Magic Mountain Lifts Capacity Limit, Modifies Mask Requirement

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Six Flags Magic Mountain
Photo Courtesy of Six Flags

Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor have lifted capacity limits and removed the mask requirement for fully vaccinated guests.

Starting June 15 as California fully reopens, both of the Valencia parks are now welcoming out of state residents, with no reservations required for any visitors, according to Jerry Certonio, manager of marketing and communications for Magic Mountain. 

It is highly recommended that all unvaccinated guests continue to wear masks, especially while indoors, Certonio added. 

Team members will continue to wear masks and undergo temperature screening, according to the spokesperson. 

Other Southern California theme parks, including Disneyland, have also lifted the mask mandate for fully vaccinated guests. 

The California Blueprint for a Safer Economy was lifted Tuesday, with certain restrictions in place for “high risk” activities.

On April 1, Magic Mountain opened its gates for the first time since the pandemic, becoming the first amusement park to reopen in Los Angeles County.

The “Thrill Capital of the World” closed on March 13, 2020, with Six Flags officials expecting at the time to evaluate reopening “by the end of the month.” That closure was first extended until mid-May, later lasting over a year. 

For more information, visit the Six Flags Magic Mountain website.

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L.A. City Pools To Repen Just In Time For Heatwave

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LA County Pool Lifeguard

Several City of Los Angeles pools are reopening on Monday just in for the triple-digit heatwave to help Angelenos stay cool.

On June 14, the City is opening 26 pools, including nine in the San Fernando Valley, after being closed last season due to COVID-19 concerns, according to the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks and Recreation

This year, L.A. City Parks pools will be providing swim lessons, aquatic team sports, junior lifeguarding, and recreational swimming following COVID-19 guidelines and protocol, the department said in a statement.

The large pool at Hansen Dam is reopening, as well as pools in Canoga Park, Northridge, North Hollywood, Reseda, Sherman Oaks, Sun Valley and Van Nuys. 

In-person and online registration for joining aquatic team sports, swimming lessons and junior lifeguard are expected to be available starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 19. 

Prospective participants are welcome to visit pools in person beginning Monday before committing to a class or program, according to the department. 

The Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department offers families and community members many affordable and safe aquatic activities at their public pools, lakes and beaches.

With drowning the second-leading cause of accidental death for children under 14, kids must learn to swim and understand how to be safe around all bodies of water. Swim L.A. is one of many programs offered by the City’s Aquatics Division, according to department officials.

Swim L.A. ensures that young Angelenos between the ages of 4 and 17 have more opportunities to learn how to swim. 

For more information and to register for swim classes or aquatic sports, visit here.

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