L.A.’s wild side

 

In mid-April, one of Southern California’s most reclusive celebrities found himself, quite literally, in a very tight spot. P-22, a mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park — 4,000 acres of green space in the heart of Los Angeles — was discovered in the crawlspace of a home in a hip neighborhood flanking the park. Television cameras swarmed, and wildlife officials tried to spook the lion out, chucking tennis balls at him to no avail. P-22’s fans worried: Had the big cat finally gotten too close for comfort? Would he be shot?

Remarkably, he wasn’t. Wildlife officials stowed their tennis balls and evicted the media, establishing a quiet perimeter around the house. By morning, P-22 had slipped away to the relative safety of Griffith Park.

Ever since P-22 left the Santa Monica Mountains in 2012, crossing two notoriously congested freeways to take up residence in the city, he’s awakened Angelenos’ wonder at the wildness that persists here amid the crush of concrete and rush of traffic. His presence has given traction to efforts to build wildlife bridges over highways to connect the last remnants of habitat for the few remaining lions. And he has helped shape an emerging environmental ethos — one that seeks to reconcile L.A.’s built environment and human inhabitants with the wild landscape they’ve consumed.

That ethos also sprang from the long-running efforts to revitalize the concrete-lined Los Angeles River and protect the Ballona Wetlands State Ecological Reserve, the last patch of coastal wetlands in the area and the subject of this issue’s cover story by Contributing Editor Judith Lewis Mernit.

Decades ago, environmentalists fought developers to save the wetlands — and fought one another over how much acreage should be saved. Now, with the state trying to finalize a restoration plan, the debate over Ballona is as fraught, impassioned and divisive as ever. How much bulldozing and replanting — if any — is necessary to “heal” the landscape? Should people be banned for the sake of the wetlands’ species, or do we deserve access to this tiny urban wilderness? Who, and what, is this restoration really for?

Such intense debate over a mere 600 acres in a sprawling city might seem provincial. Increasingly, however, ecologists argue that re-making our farms, city parks, front yards and roadsides into hospitable habitat for native plants and wildlife is crucial to preserving global biodiversity.

For cities to become ecological refuges, we have to evolve, too — rethinking the goals of environmentalism and adjusting the boundaries we draw between human and wild. It’s work rife with ambiguity, but also hope. Consider P-22’s pickle in the crawlspace: “Even the homeowners were super chill,” Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told Lewis Mernit after the incident. “Everyone wanted the cat to be safe. He is L.A.’s lion!”

High Country News Classifieds
  • SENIOR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is seeking a Senior Environmental Planner to lead the Nature in the City team. This interdisciplinary position is housed in...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) is seeking a dynamic community engagement assistant. The individual will work to identify and empower members, supporters, volunteers, and others...
  • VOICES OF WISDOM 2019 SOUTHWEST
    May 25 & 26 At the bank of the Colorado River, at Riverbend Park in Palisade, Colorado, the Sacred Fire Community in the Grand Valley...
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • BRN DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • WEB DESIGN AND CONTENT MANAGER
    We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER
    The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • JOHN DEERE SNOW BLOWER 24"
    Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • STRAW BALE, ADOBE, TIMBER FRAME, HEALTHY HOME, NEAR LA VETA PASS, CO
    unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KANIKSU LAND TRUST
    Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    10-day tour from Los Mochis airport, 2/nyts El Fuerte, train, 2/nyts canyon rim hotel, 5/nyts camping. 520-324-0209, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, ALASKA
    Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney