226 acres of open space near Castaic Lake donated to Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority

The 226 acres of open space, which was donated to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, separates the southbound and northbound lanes of Interstate 5. The land donor, Neil Nadler, had owned the property for more than 20 years.

Santa Clarita Valley residents were given a gift of green Wednesday when 226 acres of open space near Castaic Lake was donated to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

The long narrow strip of land separates the southbound and northbound lanes of Interstate 5.

On Wednesday, the authority announced it had taken title of 226 acres of donated prime open space in north Los Angeles County near Castaic Lake.

The property is part of a “habitat linkage” that allows wildlife to move under I-5 between the Los Padres and Angeles national forests. The donation is one of the largest in the authority’s history, authority officials noted in their news release issued Wednesday.

“Interstate 5 creates an over 30-mile-long wildlife movement barrier across the mountains between the Santa Clarita Valley and the beginning of the Grapevine,” said Paul Edelman, the authority’s chief of national resources and planning.

The donated land becomes a ribbon of green between the 21,000 homes being built as part of Newhall Ranch to the south of it and the 19,000 homes of the Centennial Project approved last month by county supervisors.

“The donation land is vital for animals to safely cross that I-5 barrier because it leads into existing wildlife under-crossings,” Edelman said.

“This will also set the stage for conservation of additional land to the north,” he said.

The land donor, Neil Nadler, had owned the property for more than 20 years and had developed plans for a business park and motocross tracks on most of the land.

Biologists, however, told him he needed to leave ample space for the wildlife corridor to the north.

Officially, the property is part of the Sierra Madre-Castaic Connection identified in the 2005 South Coast Missing Linkages Project.

Known as Marple Canyon, it supports a mix of riparian vegetation types along a windy creek bed. Its slopes support grassland and coastal sage scrub.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife designates the property as part of an area with high conservation value.

“I am pleased and honored to be able to conserve this important portion of the Sierra Madre-Castaic wildlife linkage,” Nadler was quoted as saying in the MRCA news release Wednesday.

“Being an environmental advocate who understands how costly wildlife corridors can be, I’m especially grateful that I am in the position in my life to give back to our fragile ecosystem,” he said.

“I also want to thank Kristeen Penrod of South Coast Wildlands, and the other scientists who helped me over the last 23 years understand the Marple Canyon’s highest and best use is for everyone to appreciate the beauty and function as a critical element in wildlife movement.”

Two years ago, Nadler helped the authority purchase an adjacent 7-acre parcel that contains a tunnel, which, according to the authority, is heavily used by wildlife beneath the southbound lanes of I-5 and also allows animals to reach the new parkland.

Authority officials plan on naming the parkland for Nadler.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority is a local government public entity dedicated to the preservation and management of open space and parkland, watershed lands, trails and wildlife habitat.

It works in cooperation with other government partners to acquire parkland, participate in vital planning processes, provide natural resources and scientific expertise, and complete major park improvement projects.

It also manages and provides ranger services and fire protection for almost 75,000 acres of parkland that it owns and that are owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy or other agencies, and provides comprehensive education and interpretation and leadership programs for youth.

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