When I'm not reading the beautiful prose of the California Energy Commission or the determined theatrics of evidentiary hearing transcripts, I try to find time to read books on desert ecology and environmental policy. I've just finished two books that I think are worth reading, especially for people that are passionate about desert conservation and sensible environmental policy.
Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink, by Mitch Tobin
Tobin's new book draws from his experience as a journalist in America's Southwest, which often involved working to understand multiple sides of a particular story or policy issue. He uses this access and experience to share his broad perspective on policy and societal issues that impact how we as a country triage environmental damage. Endangered examines the role of multiple stakeholders--from municipal to federal government agencies, to ranchers, recreationists, and the spectrum of environmental NGOs--and how these actors' decisions impact species and their habitat. Much of Tobin's book draws on examples in Arizona's Sonoran desert, but also California's arid lands as well. All of Tobin's examples have lessons that apply to the challenges facing the Mojave Desert. Occasionally I wanted Tobin to give more insight on particular policies or case studies, but I'm sure his editors were trying to keep the book from reading like a textbook. Until he comes out with a textbook, I strongly recommend Tobin's Endangered.
The California Deserts: An Ecological Rediscovery, by Bruce M. Pavlik
This is a new book that provides a good primer on desert ecology in California. It is an excellent book for someone like myself (someone who does not have a background in biological sciences), but wants to learn about the the natural history, processes and species of the California deserts. Pavlik's book boils down desert ecology in a way that makes it understandable--including the use of beautiful photography and illustrations that serve the book well--and the book's scope includes the interaction of humans throughout the desert's history. The book starts out wonderfully by addressing the history of American Indians in California's deserts, and how the deserts were viewed by the first European settlers. Pavlik then goes into detail about how the deserts themselves were created and evolved over time, and how the species we find in the deserts today adapted to the extremes of the ecosystem. I have always been passionate about the California deserts, but Pavlik's book managed to deepen my appreciation even further, and I would recommend the book to others who want to achieve the same.