Source: Steve Winter of National Geographic via bbc.com and reddit.com
The tragic death this weekend of Mountain Lion P-22 in/near Los Angeles’ Griffith Park struck a somber chord within me, much like the euthanized death of a neighborhood-roaming black bear did in Traverse City, Michigan 18 months ago. Both became celebrities in the fact that they found ways to survive in the concrete urban jungle Sadly, both tragedies might have been averted, or at least made less likely to have occurred, if we humans had only taken a few simple planning steps to help protect them.
Mural honoring Mountain Lion P-22 in the Watts Neighborhood of LA – Source: audacy.com
Below are what I believe are top ten planning lessons from these two tragedies. Believe me, I could have added a lot more! Rest in Peace, P-22 – you will be missed. Hopefully your legacy will help improve life for future generations of wildlife in our nation.
- We invaded their territory, not the contrary. As a result, we should be better at adapting to their needs and not expect the opposite to occur, especially since we are supposedly the more intelligent beings.
- Each roadkill observed along our roadways and every animal being euthanized as a being nuisance or accident victim is yet another symbol of our failure to better design communities and transportation systems to fit the needs of ALL residents – human or otherwise. To know the actual number of wildlife deaths from our collective misdeeds would be mind-blowing.
- If we do not adjust our urban and transportation systems to be more wildlife friendly, then we have failed as planners to consider all the implications of our actions individually and collectively. As such, we fail to meet the ethical obligations of our profession.
- An animal is not a problem to be dealt with. It is a living being whose needs are supposed to be part of the equation in seeking comprehensive solutions.
- As more species die off as a result of our arrogance, we lose potential future solutions to environmental, ecological, and epidemiological threats. We are essentially cutting off our own lifeline and shredding our tenuous safety net.
- When was the last time, your master plan or comprehensive plan included a chapter, a paragraph, or a sentence on the animal wildlife…not just a general summary of the natural features found in your community? A wealth of information is available through local environmental groups, conservation organizations, animal welfare groups, and publications like state and local breeding bird atlases.
- Wildlife can be amazingly adaptable…if we’d only give them a fighting chance through the building of wildlife over/under passes, installing safety fences, preserving open spaces, and maintaining/establishing safe wildlife corridors.
- To plan/build highways and roads without consideration of the needs of the wildlife living in or passing through the area is tantamount to gross negligence.
- Observing the birds at your feeder(s) or Mother Nature’s other residents of your yard/neighborhood can be a great starting point for better understanding the needs of wildlife – water, food, cover, and shelter/nesting materials is all they seek.
- Planning for nature/wildlife should be a required prerequisite for each and every undergraduate and graduate planning program in the nation.