Nearly two years ago Los Angeles reporter Chris Weber happened upon a photo of an impressive wildlife crossing in Canada. California has a number of tunnels that allow generally smaller animals to go under roads but nothing like the Canadian bridge. With cars routinely running into deer, bears, mountain lions and other animals on California’s busy freeways, Weber wondered why no bridges had been built. He made inquiries and learned one was planned for the U.S. 101 freeway northwest of Los Angeles.
At the time, California transportation officials didn’t have much to say about the plan. Weber then connected with a source at the National Wildlife Federation, a major backer of the project. She introduced him to the architect and Weber learned that the Liberty Canyon wildlife crossing would be the largest in the world and mainly privately funded. When the proposal passed the environmental hurdles and went into the design phase Weber started pressing his contacts to grant AP exclusive access to renderings and other images. Eventually they recognized Weber’s commitment to the story, keeping him abreast as the design plans were finalized. Then he convinced the federation to hold their public announcement until AP’s story moved. Weber arranged a tour of the planned site with Los Angeles photographer Marcio Sanchez and intern Natalie Rice, who shot and produced the video. Once AP’s all-formats package was scheduled to run, the Wildlife Federation canceled its press release, letting the AP text, photos and video serve as the project’s announcement. The package received extraordinary play, including use by The New York Times and Politico. The video was repackaged by Los Angeles station KABC-TV and had nearly 13,000 views on YouTube.