Preservation Through Collaboration
This unprecedented partnership led by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and joined by Caltrans, the Regional Transportation Commission, Graniterock, and local landowners keeps cars and wildlife safely apart.
790Total Connected Acres Protected
65KAverage# of Cars Per Day on HWY 17
Why This Land Is Preserved
The HWY 17 wildlife tunnel at Laurel Curve will provide long-ranging wildlife — most notably Santa Cruz mountain lions — with safe passage under the heavily trafficked highway. A 10-year long research project began in 2012 between the UCSC Puma Project and Pathways for Wildlife and the Land Trust. The project collected information from collared pumas, wildlife cameras, and animal-vehicle collision data. Deer, bobcats, foxes, and mountain lions have all been caught on camera trying to cross.
Research by the Santa Cruz Puma Project's biologist, Chris Wilmers, shows both extensive use of the area by mountain lions – and the deaths of three of them in recent years. Wilmers called the Laurel Curve area "the best opportunity for maintaining puma connectivity across Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County."
A five-year study identified Laurel Curve as the ideal location for the crossing. In 2014 the Land Trust took the first step by protecting a 10-acre property off Laurel Road. The Land Trust has since protected an additional 790 acres around the site.
The stretch of highway at Laurel Curve is built over large natural drainage, creating the ideal place to install a large box culvert. The roadway above serves as a bridge, with the area underneath becoming the wildlife crossing.
The undercrossing is wider and more welcoming for wildlife than a tunnel. The unique partnership created a new mitigation incentive framework for conservation and wildlife protection projects in California, paving the way for SB790. The law supports the implementation of wildlife crossings statewide using the model pioneered on this project
- No human activities allowed: This area is for wildlife only.
More Information and Updates
Discover the history of this location and check back for news on future projects.
In the San Jose Mercury News: Construction begins on $12 million mountain lion crossing on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz Mountains
San Jose Mercury News Natural Resources and Environment Reporter, Paul Rogers, covers the beginning of construction at Laurel Curve.
Land Trust to Protect Ranch for Wildlife Crossing Highway 101
Unprecedented Partnership Breaks Ground on Highway 17 Wildlife Tunnel Project
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