by Jim Dice, Reserve Manager
University of California, Irvine
Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park hosted a whirlwind tour Monday morning, July 28, 2014, sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, in conjunction with the San Diego Diplomacy Council.
Representatives from seven Pacific Rim nations (Brunei, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu and the People’s Republic of China), along with State Department contractors, arrived at the ABDSP Visitor Center shortly after 10 a.m. Most of the participants were traveling to the U.S. for the first time.
The group, composed of foreign specialists working for environmental agencies of Pacific Rim countries, was interested in natural resource management and understanding the general natural history of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Borrego Valley region. Representatives from California State Parks’ Colorado Desert District headquarters, the University of California, Irvine’s Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center (UCI), the Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF) and the Borrego Water District (BWD) were on hand to discuss natural resource management issues. California State Parks’ Colorado Desert District Superintendent Dan Falat and his staff (Terry Gerson, Joe Hopkins and Evan McKinnon) led the discussion, assisted by ABF President Jimmy Smith and Executive Director Paige Rogowski, UCI’s Jim Dice and BWD Director Lyle Brecht.
Many of the countries represented by the delegation had groundwater issues similar to those of Borrego Valley and were very interested in discussing the history and current water management policies of the Borrego Water District. Dr. Jianfang Qiao, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, works in an arid region of China very similar to the Anza-Borrego and Borrego Valley region and had a number of questions about water, ecological restoration and resource management issues. After a 90-minute session in the Visitor Center’s Discovery Lab, the group briefly toured the Visitor Center exhibits, the Visitor Center‘s desert garden, and the Colorado Desert District Paleontology Lab before boarding their bus for lunch at La Casa del Zorro and back to Escondido for an afternoon meeting.