Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Ernie Cowan 

Book Review: "A Natural History of the Anza-Borrego Region"


Last updated 1/23/2020 at 2:19pm

“A Natural History of the Anza-Borrego Region” is a new book that just about any desert rat has dreamed of for years.

Borrego residents Mile Wells and Marie Simovich have distilled a lifetime of knowledge into a 225-page book that’s a dream come true for those who love the desert and want to know more about it.

The book was a seven-year labor of love for the husband and wife team and the culmination of experience that began for Wells in the early 1970’s when he was assigned to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park as a ranger. He eventually became Superintendent in Anza-Borrego.

His park career took him to many places, including Ocotillo Wells Off Road Vehicle Park, parks in central California, Marshall Gold Discovery and Humboldt Redwoods, but it was his first assignment at the remote Bow Willow Ranger outpost where his love and fascination of the desert was born.

The idea for a comprehensive and readable book about the natural history of this region came when Wells and Simovich began teaching a class in desert biology at the University of San Diego where she continues to serve as a research associate.

“We soon realized there was little published information about the things we wanted to teach in class,” Wells said. “Students would have had to purchase at least seven different guides.”

The couple began creating lectures and Power Point presentations for their classes and this eventually became the outline for their book.

“We launched our book idea thinking it would be a three to four-month project, but it took us seven years to complete,” Wells said during a recent interview from his Borrego Springs home.

It’s not easy creating a technical publication that is both readable and scientifically accurate.

But they have done it and done it extremely well.

“A Natural History of the Anza-Borrego Region” is a beautiful work at every level and at last provides a single source of information on everything from geology, climate, physical geography, paleontology, unique desert animals and how they survive in the harsh environment, plants, ecology, habitats, human pre-history and the future.

What I found most enjoyable about the book was its readability. Like many people I’ve purchased books on specific desert topics, only to become lost in technical jargon.

“Our target was the National Geographic audience, not the experts who already know this stuff,” Wells said.

He also realized that he had a lifetime of knowledge about the desert, but in some cases no clue as to why he knew it. They had to go back to reference sources or experts in specific subjects to confirm what they knew.

“We had to go through and validate everything, so that also involved consulting with 11 experts who reviewed our text to see if it was accurate,” Wells said. Fortunately, the Internet also helps to make that an easier task today.

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Full review in the Jan. 9 issue of the Borrego Sun.

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