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Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose Demonstrate Care of Creation Protecting Habitat and Motorist Safety on California Highway

CA Nat Resources Sec John Laird, “This project demonstrates how coordinated efforts by the Santa Cruz Land Trust, local and state governments, and business and educational institutions can help preserve important wildlife

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose finalized an environmental easement to protect 173 acres of forested property west of Highway 17 at Laurel Curve. The easement represents the last parcel needed to connect bio-diverse habitat and protect motorists’ safety. Combined with two properties east of the highway protected by the Trust last year, the easement prohibits development in these areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Trust’s project includes plans to build a wildlife tunnel under Highway 17, which carries over 50,000 daily commuters. Fatal accidents on 17 are highest at Laurel Curve – a site also used by mountain lions trying to cross the busy 4-lane road. A tunnel will prevent collisions with wildlife. Tunnel design is expected to begin this year, supported by $3.1 million in California Transportation Commission funds – with construction slated for 2020.

The Dominican Sisters collaboration with the Trust sought to protect their “Marywood” property, preserving the environment while allowing its use for private retreats. Sister Barbara Hagel, the congregation’s “Care of Creation” coordinator affirmed, “The Laurel Curve project is a huge benefit, promoting the movement of wildlife throughout the county and providing opportunities for genetic dispersal, limited in recent years by freeways.”

Land Trust Project Director Dan Medeiros said it was necessary to protect the land on both sides of the future crossing. “You don’t want to send mountain lions…

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