PODCASTEnvironmentally Speaking EP 33: Animal Crossing

May 5, 20220

We start the show off by recapping the last episode on Earth Day. Did you know Earth Day is our second favorite day, next to our birthdays?! There has been talk of building an overpass for animal crossings over a huge highway in California. Take a listen as we discuss what this project will look like and how this will better the environment around these areas.


CLARICE: Hello, everybody. Welcome to today’s episode of Environmentally Speaking and most importantly happy Earth Day.

MARISA: Happy Earth Day April 22nd, best day of the year.

CLARICE: Right after our birthday.

MARISA: Oh, yeah. So this is Environmentally Speaking. I’m Marisa Desautel an environmental attorney.

CLARICE: And I’m Clarice. I’m coming in with questions, comments, topics to talk about. And today we’re going to talk – oh, I’m sorry.

MARISA: It’s okay. You just mentioned Earth Day being the second best day of the year after our birthdays. Clarice and I share the same birthday strangely enough.

CLARICE: It makes it so much easier to not have the fight over whose birthday is better.

MARISA: And actually remembering –


MARISA: — what day your birthday is.


MARISA: Earth Day.

CLARICE: — for our second favorite celebration, Earth Day. So as we’ve been talking about for the past two episodes, we’ve been talking a lot about Earth Day. We’ve been talking about our good friend Gaylord and all of the work he’s done. So we also want to point out that you can go to Recreation.gov and find a ton of different ways to celebrate. There’s different volunteer opportunities. There’s different cleanup actions, ways to learn more about the local environment, things that are going on around you, so it’s a good resource. It’s a good way to get out and celebrate. Good news is it’s a free holiday, so you can pick up trash and you don’t have to buy a present for anybody. Much cheaper than Christmas, Hanukkah, and all of that.

MARISA: Wouldn’t it be great if Earth Day became a federal holiday that people took off to do something nice for the planet?

CLARICE: I would love that.


CLARICE: I would go plalking again. I would go plalking all over again.

MARISA: Even if you just went and bought a plant or a tree or some kind of native shrub and planted it in your yard or somewhere else, can you imagine if everyone did that for one day of the year?

CLARICE: Well, first off, the neighborhood would be so much more beautiful.

MARISA: It would.

CLARICE: That would be really awesome. And, second, I love the idea of buying a plant.


CLARICE: It’s a little something.

MARISA: That’s what I’m doing today to celebrate.

CLARICE: All right. I might do that after work today.


CLARICE: I might go buy some flowers, guys.

MARISA: You have to yell out Earth Day as you’re paying for the plant. I don’t know if anyone knows that, but it’s a requirement.

CLARICE: Debit or credit? Earth Day!

MARISA: Yes. You understand the assignment.

CLARICE: Beautiful. Just practicing.

MARISA: So I, like I do every morning, read the news and because it’s Earth Day today a lot of the topics have to do with the environment. And one of them – or excuse me. One of the stories that I came across warms my heart because I’m an animal lover and I get really bummed out when I witness, quote, unquote, human progress destroying habitat, destroying forested areas, wetlands, without any real effective mitigation. And this story is the opposite of that scenario, so I thought I’d share it.

[0:03:35] CLARICE: Oh, my goodness. Good news on Earth Day.


CLARICE: All right. Let’s hear it.

MARISA: I might regret it. In a moment of weakness I have something positive to share. So in California – if you’ve ever been to California, you know that the highway system there is quite a bit larger than in other parts of the country, especially Rhode Island. And near Los Angeles there is an incredibly busy ten-lane highway that stretches between the mountains and ties Los Angeles to Santa Monica, so it’s very heavily traveled. As you can imagine a ten-lane superhighway is wide and you’ve got animals and habitat that exist on both sides of the highway. The animals don’t know what a superhighway is and they’ve got no way to cross except Frogger style.

CLARICE: Oh, no. We all knew it was coming, but still.

MARISA: I know. It’s not awesome. At least 25 big cats have been killed on Los Angeles freeways since 2002, so that’s the negative part of the story.


MARISA: However, the smart folks of California and the National Wildlife Federation have been working on something called an animal crossing, not a video game.

CLARICE: Instantly what I thought of.

MARISA: Yeah. It’s an engineering marvel, if I could be so bold, that stretches across one side of the highway to the other and it essentially just allows for safe passage of wildlife including cats, snakes, lizards, all kind of animals.

CLARICE: It’s like an overpass? It’s like a little bridge over the highway?

MARISA: It’s a big bridge over the highway.

CLARICE: Oh, it’s big.

MARISA: It’s 210 feet long and 165 feet wide.

[0:06:02] CLARICE: That’s a giant bridge.

MARISA: It’s very large, yeah. And so it’s made out of, I assume, concrete engineered appropriately. The factor that makes it so unique, though, is not – you see overpasses all the time. This particular animal crossing overpass contains an acre of local plants on either side and vegetated sound walls to dampen light and noise for nocturnal animals as they cross because some animals only come out at night, so the cars’ headlights can be disruptive of their movement.


MARISA: So they created more of a natural habitat to encourage the animals to cross at night.

CLARICE: That’s a very cool idea. I wouldn’t have thought of – you know, I don’t know why, but the idea of all the nocturnal animals I don’t think would have hit me at first blush. Very cool.

MARISA: Yeah. Yeah. And they’re real focused on mountain lions because those are the biggest animals trying to cross. There’s a lot of them being hit by cars and so the thought was if the transportation folks can get on board with the idea, they’re using this as a model, so to speak, to see how the mountain lions handle crossing.

CLARICE: Cool. When was this built?

MARISA: It hasn’t been built yet. The ground-breaking will take place today. The construction is expected to cost $90 million and it will be called the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. Construction will happen mostly at night and isn’t expected to be complete until early 2025.

CLARICE: Well, for a bridge of that size that doesn’t surprise me. But how cool they’re starting that on Earth Day. I love it.

MARISA: Isn’t that great.

CLARICE: Do you think right as they break ground they shout Earth Day like us at the register?


CLARICE: Okay. Just keeping with tradition.

MARISA: That’s a footnote in this article here.

CLARICE: Oh, good. I’m glad they included that. We’ve got good news. We’ve got something proactive for animal life. I love that. And I think it’s going to go – without saying, but I do have to say it. The idea of hitting some sort of big cat while driving on the highway is probably my newest fear. That must be the scariest experience for you and the cat.

MARISA: Probably scarier for the cat.

CLARICE: I don’t know. .

MARISA: It’s not in a car.

CLARICE: I’m really jumpy.

MARISA: But you’re in a car.

[0:09:00] CLARICE: True. Still terrifying.

MARISA: Well, don’t move to California.

CLARICE: Jesus. I’m going to cancel all my plans.

MARISA: So, yeah. I’m pretty excited about that. You know, of course it’s going to take three years to build. That’s not great, but I am happy that that’s what government and some private donors are choosing to spend taxpayer and private money on. It’s great that we have these highways and infrastructure. The country needs all of that, but there should also be consideration given to the habitats that we’re destroying, the animals that we’re displacing, and the impacts that humans have on the planet, so I thought I’d share that nice story today.

CLARICE: I love that. Yeah. Like you said, that’s a great use of private/public funds. I am hoping that given how large this highway is and they’re managing to put a bridge across it, if this is successful I’m very optimistic that other smaller highways will start to think, well, if they can do it with such a big scale and we’re only four lanes what can we do.

MARISA: Yeah. I think there are – I mean, this is the biggest animal crossing to be built, but I know I’ve seen stories in other parts of the country with animal crossings over either smaller highways or less busy highways. And if you Google it, some of these crossings have nighttime cameras that they’ve set up, so you can go on there and watch the shenanigans that go on at night with these animals trying to get across. It’s pretty funny. There’s some pretty unlikely – I don’t know if I’d call them friendships but some pretty unlikely relationships.

CLARICE: Are you talking about the coyote and the deer video?

MARISA: Yeah, I am.

CLARICE: If you guys haven’t seen it, there is this phenomenal video and it’s – like Marisa’s saying, it’s a trail cam set up near – it looks like some sort of tunnel. I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure if that’s the beginning of this animal crossing. But it’s a coyote walking around sniffing and then he looks behind, runs off of camera, gets his deer buddy and then the two of them trot down the tunnel together.


CLARICE: I don’t know what the plan is there, but it’s the cutest thing.

MARISA: Yeah. They’re buds.

CLARICE: I love it.

MARISA: The coyote checked out the situation, made sure the coast was clear and then went and got his friend.

CLARICE: And he invited his friend. Awesome stuff.

MARISA: Yeah. And the other part of this article I thought was interesting that the bridge obviously very expensive, government paid some of it and then other money came from private donors and a lot of the donors around the world were made aware of the situation with the mountain lions because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation chipped in, social media efforts. There are remote camera — kind of like what you were talking about with the video but still remote camera initiatives where there are still photos of collared or tagged mountain lions. There’s one I saw with this mountain lion at night with the Hollywood sign behind him. So it’s that kind of public awareness, social media interaction that made the private donations possible. You know, you don’t know unless –

[0:12:59] CLARICE: Yeah.

MARISA: I know because I go on the news every morning and look up environmental stuff, but short of advocates like Leo DiCaprio and others and social media initiatives you wouldn’t know that there’s an opportunity – if you care about animals you wouldn’t know there’s an opportunity to donate.

CLARICE: That’s a good point.

MARISA: Advocacy is so important.

CLARICE: Very cool. I love that. See, everybody, there is a reason why I say like, subscribe, and share at the end of our episodes. On a very small scale maybe we can, I don’t know, bring out some more awareness. Cool. So on that one – oh, I love that. Today was a happy day.

MARISA: Earth Day.

CLARICE: I love it. Earth Day. Go buy your plants. Go buy your trees. Shout politely at your cashier Earth Day. Like, subscribe, share. Let us know what you want us to talk about. Let us know if you’ve seen any cool animal videos on social media, maybe uncommon friends or some local activism, just maybe even some cool reels that you saw about the environment. Let us know. Share it. You can reach us at Help@DesautelBrowning.com. We’re on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Let us know. All right. Happy Earth Day, everybody.

MARISA: Happy Earth Day.

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