California to Build Animal Overpass over Busy Highway

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. ecosystem / ˈɛk oʊˌsɪs təm / (n) – the community of living things (e.g. animals, plants) and non-living things (e.g. rocks, rivers, soil) in a particular place

    The ocean’s ecosystem was disrupted by the overharvesting of fish and coral reefs.

  2. obstruct / əbˈstrʌkt / (v) – to stop or block something

    There are a lot of illegally parked cars that obstruct the roads in our area.

  3. isolated / ˈaɪ səˌleɪ tɪd / (adj) – separated from others

    The northern island is isolated from the rest of the country. It is only accessible by a six-hour boat ride.

  4. susceptible / səˈsɛp tə bəl / (adj) – at risk of getting affected or harmed by something

    People with a weak immune system are susceptible to infections.

  5. blend into / blɛnd ˈɪn tu / (phrasal) – to look similar with the surrounding area, people, or things

    Chameleons blend into the environment; they change their colors to match their background.


Read the text below.

California will be building the world’s largest animal overpass to help its ecosystem.

Environmentalists from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and California transportation authorities are planning to build a bridge over the US Route 101, a major highway in the United States. The 10-lane highway cuts across the Santa Monica Mountains, obstructing the ecological community in the area. According to Beth Pratt, an NWF official, the construction of the highway disconnected some animals from their ecosystem, leaving them trapped, isolated, and unable to mate.

In a study funded by the US National Park Service, scientists found that isolation put mountain lions in the ecosystem at risk of extinction. The disruption of the mountains led the animals to inbreeding, which lessened the animals’ ability to adapt to the changing environment and made them susceptible to new threats and diseases. Unless the isolated lions reconnect with other lion populations, the researchers said that their species will become extinct in 50 years.

To resolve this issue, conservationists are going to build the overpass to ensure safe passage for wildlife species and to give them access to possible mates and more food.

The overpass will be filled with trees and bushes to make it blend into the mountainous landscape. Its design will also incorporate high edges to try to block lights and sounds from the busy highway below.

The overpass is expected to be completed by 2023. Eighty percent of its funding will come from private sources, while the remaining is from public funds allocated for conservation projects. As of last August, over $13 million have already been collected from private individuals and organizations who donated to support its cause.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What do you think are some of the challenges in building an animal overpass over a busy highway like the US Route 101? Discuss.
• Do you think it is possible for people and wildlife to coexist in populated and busy areas like highways and cities? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Private funding usually comes from donations. How can conservation projects like this encourage people to donate to their cause? Explain.
• In your opinion, should wildlife conservation projects be privately funded or government-supported? Explain.