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Anza-Borrego Foundation Partners with State Parks and the Wildlife Health Center to Found a New Education and Research Institute

-Borrego Springs, CA

Within a three-hour drive of all of the major metropolitan areas of southern California and northern Baja, there are state parks with tremendous geological, biological, archeological and cultural resources. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 's 600,000 acres are home to the Peninsular bighorn sheep, rare elephant trees, and spectacular spring wildflowers, as well as the best and most continuous fossil record of the past six million years in North America. But Anza-Borrego is just one of the six parks in the Colorado Desert District, which includes the coniferous forests of Mount Palomar, the oak woodlands of the Cuyamacas, and the lower Colorado River. These extraordinary resources, and their proximity to such hugely populated urban areas, make them the perfect vehicle for a world-class educational and research institute.

Three partners have taken up the challenge to implement this vision: the nonprofit Anza- Borrego Foundation, the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Colorado Desert District of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The Foundation has hired Marty Eberhardt, former executive director of the Tucson Botanical Gardens, with a strong background in conservation and nonprofit management and fundraising, to lead this effort. Eberhardt began her job as executive director of the new Anza- Borrego Institute on April 15.

"Our vision is to expand the ways that people can learn about and enjoy these extraordinary parks," Eberhardt states. "We will be going through a major planning process, but potential programs include residential camps for schoolchildren, family education camps, programs for youth at risk, expanded field trips and lectures, and college accredited seminars and workshops. We also hope to engage visitors in citizen science, and to be involved in facilitating and coordinating ecological, paleontological, archeological, and historical research in the area. In time, we hope to build excellent facilities to support our programs. Our plans are ambitious, but the deserts and mountains that will be our classrooms and laboratories are far grander. We want to share them more effectively with residents and visitors to the region."

The Anza-Borrego Foundation is uniquely qualified to spearhead this effort. The 36-year-old foundation has had amazing success in fulfilling its mission, which up to this point has been to acquire inholdings and adjacent lands to expand Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Linda Carson, ABF Executive Director, commented, "Since 1967 ABF has acquired over 28,000 acres of inholdings and some spectacular resources including the 1,700-acre Sentenac Canyon and Cienega, a rare desert wetland, 2,675 acres of the Lucky 5 Ranch creating a wildlife corridor linking Anza-Borrego and Cuyamaca Rancho State Parks, and, most recently, 842 acres of Mason Valley including Oriflamme and Rodriguez Canyons. ABF believes that the time is right to expand its conservation efforts by helping to create the Anza-Borrego Institute."

A key partner in this new institute is Wildlife Health Center of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. The WHC has been very active in the region conducting collaborative research with partners such as California State Parks, California Department of Fish and Game, and the Zoological Society of San Diego. These research activities have allowed policy makers, managers, and the public to make informed decisions that promote wildlife and ecosystem health. Current projects in the region focus on bighorn sheep, deer, and mountain lions; feral horses in Coyote Canyon; restoring and maintaining healthy watersheds; and the use of prescribed fire as a management tool. Walter Boyce, executive director of the WHC, says, "This unique partnership will expand research efforts and educational opportunities that benefit the people and resources of California. Healthy environments support healthy people and healthy wildlife. Our combined efforts will help people of all ages understand the linkage between research, the environment, and their daily lives."

This collaboration recognizes the power and effectiveness of public/private partnerships in a time of shrinking budgets. Dave Van Cleve, superintendent of the Colorado Desert District of California State Parks, states," We are delighted to have this challenge to extend and strengthen the mission of California State Parks by partnering with these organizations. It is an exciting and bold opportunity to provide the people of California with a high quality state park program of education and research in this wonderful part of California."


More information:
Walter Boyce, Executive Director, Wildlife Health Center
(530) 752-1401, wmboyce@ucdavis.edu