A P-22 postage stamp? Schiff kicks off effort to honor L.A.'s celebrity puma
Since P-22's death in December, the most famous mountain lion in Los Angeles has been honored with roadside tributes, half a dozen murals and an upcoming celebration of life in Griffith Park expected to draw thousands.
Now, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) is pushing for a more permanent honor: a P-22 postage stamp.
In a letter sent Friday to the federal committee that recommends new U.S. stamps, Schiff wrote that P-22 was a "magnificent and wild creature, who reminded us all that we are part of a natural world so much greater than ourselves."
"When I think about what I would like to see on a postage stamp to represent the wild and beautiful aspect of Los Angeles, I think of P-22," Schiff said in an interview. "Representing Hollywood, I have a lot of very famous constituents, but none more famous than P-22."
Schiff recommended that the stamp riff on the image that made P-22 famous: a nighttime shot of the tawny cat prowling past the Hollywood sign, which was published in National Geographic.
The Hollywood sign turns 100 this year, so the stamp would honor two symbols of L.A., Schiff said.
If selected, P-22 would join the ranks of dozens of other California icons honored with stamps, including actors, authors, artists such as wildlife photographer Ansel Adams and sculptor Ruth Asawa, and flora and fauna, including the Sierra Nevada's giant sequoias and the California sea lion.
The Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, an 11-member group that reviews thousands of submissions each year, will consider the P-22 proposal.
The committee meets quarterly and recommends about two dozen designs per year. In 2023, the Postal Service will unveil designs honoring pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and the iconic yellow American school bus.
The committee's meetings are closed to the public, and in-person appeals are not permitted.
The committee decides "with all postal customers in mind, including stamp collectors," and favors stamps that "honor extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, history, culture or environment," the Postal Service said.
The committee's stamp recommendations are sent to the postmaster general for final approval.
Subjects that aren't selected can be resubmitted in three years.
Members of the public can write in and support the nomination, or nominate P-22 themselves, Schiff said. All communications to the stamp committee must be mailed — yes, with a stamp — to Washington, D.C.
"He's earned a stamp," said Beth Pratt, a regional executive director in California for the National Wildlife Federation, who often called herself P-22’s agent. "This cat globally influenced wildlife conservation. That is not an overstatement."
Pratt said a P-22 stamp could show the kind of support the mountain lion enjoyed in California. The memorial planned for P-22 on Saturday at the 5,900-seat Greek Theatre in Griffith Park has been sold out for weeks.
"They're going to get 4 million letters," Pratt said.
If the P-22 proposal doesn't make the cut, Schiff says, "we will continue to submit this request until we succeed."
The letter to the stamp advisory committee was also signed by Southern California Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) and Ted Lieu (D-Torrance).
As an adolescent cat, P-22 made an improbable trek to Griffith Park from his birthplace in the Santa Monica Mountains, journeying through the Hollywood Hills and across the 405 and 101 freeways.
Scientists had considered the park too small for an apex predator. But P-22 stayed in Griffith Park for 11 years, occasionally venturing out into nearby neighborhoods, including Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
Cut off from the rest of his species by freeways and urban development, P-22 never found a mate. His isolation and his closeness to the city lights helped make him the face of an international conservation campaign to save Southern California’s threatened pumas.
"For all we make of him, this cat didn't know any of this — he didn't know he was famous," said National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, who took the iconic Hollywood sign photo of P-22, in a recent interview. "We have to carry his story forward and hope the rest of California's endangered cougars will be able to bounce back and thrive."
Donors around the world contributed tens of millions of dollars to build a wildlife bridge across a 10-lane stretch of the 101 in Agoura Hills. The bridge, slated to open in 2025, should create a connection between two local cougar populations living on either side of the freeway.
P-22 was euthanized in December after exams revealed several serious health problems, including a skull fracture, a torn diaphragm and heart, kidney and liver disease. The big cat was struck by a driver in Los Feliz about a week before his death.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.