Temescal Canyon Association Talks Conservancy, Wildfire

By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter

Dozens of Palisadians gathered at Woodland Hall in Temescal Gateway Park on Monday, Dec. 3, for the Temescal Canyon Association’s annual meeting.

This year’s guest speakers included architect Clark Stevens and Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy.

After Stevens presented and explained the engineering that went into the Malibu Lagoon restoration, he dove right into his designs for one of the biggest conservation efforts in recent memory: a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway.

After studies by the National Park Service revealed wildlife have been cut off from their homes and have been getting killed by trying to cross the freeway—specifically 17 mountain lions—a plan was developed to reconnect the two bodies of land in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

What will be known as the “Liberty Canyon Crossing” will be the “largest such crossing in the world and will become a model for urban wildlife conservation projects,” according to the project’s website.

But no discussion for conservation in the Santa Monica Mountains can be had without the experienced input from Edmiston, who has been with the organization since he helped start it 38 years ago.

The conservancy veteran did not hesitate to address the elephant in the room: fire protection.

After the Woolsey fire ripped through Malibu and had Palisadians on the edge of their seats, residents have been wondering how well equipped the Palisades is for the what now seems inevitable wildfire.

Edmiston said 200,000 acres in and around the Palisades have not burned since 1978 and he feels strongly against rebuilding houses that sit directly in the “fire corridor.”

“Our major focus has been to keep houses out of harm’s way so that we don’t have ‘pre-planned’ disasters,” said Edmiston, who admitted he wished The Highlands community would have never been built so deep into the canyon.

For homes in Malibu that were lost during the Woolsey fire, Edmiston thinks the city should take a hard look at issuing rebuild permits right away and consider taking this opportunity to move elsewhere.

In the meantime, the SMMC has been working with fire officials to develop new methods of firefighting, as wildfires become more intense and increasingly impossible to stop.

“It’s a hard [situation] for existing homeowners,” he said. “Maybe we have to bite the bullet [and accept] that rebuild permits are not the best idea.”

For more information on the wildlife crossing visit savelacougars.org