Groups Push For 'Cougar Crossing' in San Fernando Valley

Mountain lion kitten takes a break from dinner | Photo: Santa Monica Mountains NRA/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The campaign to build a freeway crossing to allow mountain lions and other wildlife to travel safely between the Santa Monica Mountains and other open space got a boost Friday, as elected officials and the National Wildlife Federation joined the effort at a rally in Agoura Hills.

At issue is the Liberty Canyon interchange on the Ventura Freeway -- Route 101 -- which is a dangerous barrier between the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, formerly Ahmanson Ranch, in the Simi Hills. That's a largely undeveloped corridor between the otherwise landlocked Santa Monicas and wildlands to the north, and a vital link between mountain lion populations in the Santa Monicas and the rest of Southern California.

As we reported in the wake of an October mountain lion fatality at the Liberty Canyon crossing, the freeway barrier poses a long-term threat to the mountain lions in the Santa Monicas; without regular influxes of new lions from elsewhere, the Santa Monica lions are already increasingly inbred. A safe wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon would help alleviate that problem.

No Protection for 2 Rare NorCal Plants

Red Mountain stonecrop | Photo: Carex Working Group/CalFlora/Creative Commons License

Two rare plants from Northern California that have been waiting for Endangered Species Act protection for more than 30 years won't be getting that protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce Thursday.

The Red Mountain buckwheat (Eriogonum kelloggii) and Red Mountain stonecrop (Sedum eastwoodiae) are being denied listing because USFWS has determined that populations of the two species are stable, despite each having an extremely limited range in Mendocino County. Both are restricted to a few square miles of serpentine soils on and near Red Mountain, just east of the city of Ukiah.

The buckwheat has been a candidate for listing under ESA since 1975, and the stonecrop joined the ranks of candidate species in 1980.

Rare California Beetle Will Stay Protected

Valley elderberry longhorn beetle | Photo: USFWS/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A beetle found only in elderberry thickets in the Sacramento Valley will remain on the federal list of Threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday. The valley elderberry longhorned beetle, Desmocerus californicus dimorphus, is in trouble due to conversion of its habitat to farms and cities.

USFWS had proposed in 2012 to take the beetle off the Threatened species list, citing an apparent increase in local populations of the subspecies. As we reported in May, conservation groups challenged that proposal, saying that USFWS was using bad science to determine where the beetle still lived.

In Wednesday's decision, USFWS essentially ceded that point to critics of the delisting, saying that the 2012 proposal to strip the beetle of Endangered Species Act protection "did not fully analyze the best available information."

Arid Land Birds in Steep Decline

Bendire's thrashers, and other arid land birds, are in deep trouble | Photo: Richard W./Flickr/Creative Commons License

A new report from a consortium of wildlife conservation organizations reveals that birds of America's deserts, chaparral, and sagebrush lands are in more trouble than those in other habitats.

According to The State of the Birds 2014, released Tuesday by a committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, birds of the United States' aridlands have been declining in population more steeply over recent years than birds elsewhere in the country.

Since 1968, say the report's authors, populations of 17 key aridland bird species have dropped by 46 percent, with a six percent drop just since 2009.

8 Cool Ways You Can Do Citizen Science

You can do science! | Photo: National Park Service/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A segment on KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected" has been produced in tandem with this story. Watch it here now.

We've been covering the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum's fascinating BioSCAN citizen science project this week, and to be honest it's been a little unfair of us: Angelenos just hearing about BioSCAN now and wanting to get involved may be disappointed to learn that the project has filled all of its 30 available slots for backyard insect traps.

But that doesn't mean you've missed out on your chance to get involved in crowd-sourcing scientific discovery. There's a whole world of ways to contribute to ecological science without having an expensive postgraduate degree. All you need is an interest in the natural world, a willingness to hone your knowledge, and a little bit of time.

Whether you're a joiner or a recluse, you can find opportunities to do citizen science that match your mood and your interests, from organized public events to mobile apps. We've listed eight of the coolest ones here.

5 Fascinating Insects You Probably Didn't Know Lived in L.A.

Agapostemon | Photo: Courtesy NHM

A segment on KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected" has been produced in tandem with this story. Watch it here now.

The BioSCAN Project, a citizen-science insect research project launched by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum in 2013, has been turning up some fascinating captured insects. Museum staff have deployed insect traps at 30 locations across the L.A. region, from Burbank to Gardena, and each week's collection of trapped insects has brought new discoveries.

The traps have collected insect species well-known from the Los Angeles area and insect species wholly new to science, as well as some well-known insects that have nonetheless mystified insect researchers for some time.

We've picked five of what we thought were the among most interesting BioSCAN finds, starting with the bright green critter shown above: A male metallic sweat bee in the genus Agapostemon.

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