Palm Desert



The Zoo an animal hospital is first class and the interaction with the animals is educational and fun for all the family. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit, accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ensuring the highest standards of all aspects of animal care, education, conservation, public service, and operations. The Zoo is active in conservation research, habitat protection, breeding programs and education initiatives around the world, as well as in its own community. The Zoo has been a top attraction in the Palm Springs area for more than 50 years.

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The Living Desert was laid out in 1970 by a few legal administrators of the Palm Springs Desert Museum who predicted the effect that hotel improvement would have on their neighborhood desert biological system. This prescience prompted an interpretive nature trail and save in Palm Desert. Among the legal administrators was Philip L. Boyd who additionally established the Riverside grounds of the University of California and the Deep Canyon Research Station in Palm Desert. Among his most memorable errands was to enlist an occupant naturalist. This individual ended up being a young lady with energy, knowledge, and desire, as well as experience as an animal handler and park officer, in addition to graduate work in natural life science.

Karen Sausman was President and CEO of The Living Desert for quite some time. The vision that fabricated The Living Desert and the adoration for the desert shared by Phillip Boyd, Karen Sausman, our individuals, volunteers, staff, legal administrators, and companions, will be conveyed forward by our ongoing President/CEO, Allen Monroe.

For more than fifty years, The Living Desert has participated in the significant work of saving, preserving, and deciphering the desert and all its changed plant and creature life. Indeed, even as we invest heavily in our achievements throughout the course of recent years, we stay as devoted as could be expected to the objectives that first motivated us when we initially started tasks in March of 1970.

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Celebrating Buford Crites

We know it is not easy to say goodbye to our Friend.

Buford literally was a force FOR nature. One of the good guys with a vision of how the Coachella Valley could sustain itself – Buford helped so many others to open their eyes, minds, and hearts as well.

Please join Friends on Tuesday, January 17th to honor Buford.

9 AM Buford Crites Memorial Hike

11 AM Celebration of Life on Friends’ patio

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

In lieu of sending flowers, please consider making a donation to Friends of the Desert Mountains in Buford’s honor.

Buford Crites
AUGUST 20, 1948 – NOVEMBER 12, 2022

Buford A. Crites passed away peacefully at his beloved Chapel Hill home in Palm Desert, California on Saturday, November 12, 2022. He was born on August 20, 1948 to Buford A. Crites Sr. and Adrean F. Boesch in Owensville, Missouri. “Pigg Hollow” was his first home (pronounced “pig-holler”). He graduated from Owensville High School in 1966 and went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree (double major) in Geology and Communications at Southwest Missouri State Teacher’s College in Springfield. He then obtained a Master’s degree in Communications at Illinois State University. After completing some PhD work in Montana and at the University of Utah, he moved to Palm Desert, California in 1976 to begin teaching speech at College of the Desert. This led to a 30-year career at C.O.D. teaching students the fine points of oration, speech preparation, and debate tactics, a specialty for which Professor Crites was known.

To say the life of this man was remarkable is an understatement. Buford spent his 74 years in service to others and to his community. His countless involvements included being a part of the Palm Desert Planning commission followed by 20 years serving on the Palm Desert City Council, including four terms as Mayor. He oversaw the careful and thoughtful development and expansion of Palm Desert in the early years of the city, and at the same time worked steadfastly to conserve and preserve the surrounding areas for future generations to enjoy. He also helped solidify the sister city relationship between Palm Desert and Gisborne, New Zealand – a partnership that continues to this day.

An avid conservationist, Buford fought for open space and conservation of the beautiful Coachella Valley – the place he called home for almost 50 years. His love and curiosity for natural history and geology made him an essential participant in countless discussions relating to the well-being of the environment. He was a founding board member of both the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy and the Friends of the Desert Mountains organizations. A crowning feat of his tireless efforts was the establishment of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The monument was officially dedicated on October 24, 2000 by Congresswoman Mary Bono. In addition, over a 10-year period he helped broker the groundbreaking Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan – a visionary plan that will carefully guide development and conservation in our portion of Eastern Riverside County for decades to come.

Buford served on numerous other boards and committees including the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, the Coachella Valley Conservation District, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Mojave Desert Land Trust, the Living Desert, and the California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. He was an assistant and confidant to three Riverside County Supervisors: Corky Larsen, Roy Wilson and John Benoit. Two California governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, appointed Buford to the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board. He also worked with U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, Congressman Sonny Bono, Congresswoman Mary Bono, and Congressman Raul Ruiz to further the protection of local natural resources. Buford always wished to own a horse and took great pride in being invited to join the Palm Springs Desert Riders as an honorary member (and he’s got a big fancy belt buckle to prove it).

Buford was a voracious reader and his knowledge went well beyond his years of teaching at College of the Desert. He led countless hikes throughout the Coachella Valley and beyond – sharing with others the natural history of our local plants, animals, and rock formations. Ever the teacher he took pleasure in quizzing other hike participants to see what they remembered! He was also a prankster with an extensive command of the English language. Many a confused recipient of his conversational responses were left questioning the final exchange! After retirement, he renewed his interest in birding and began traveling with friends far and wide in search of rare or unusual species, from Madagascar and South Africa to Cuba, Ecuador, and beyond. His last big trip – a safari to Tanzania – was especially exciting and memorable.

When news of Buford’s passing rippled through the Valley, along with condolences came many stories of his humor and his tireless willingness to help anyone who needed a hand, including the many dogs in his life (his pockets were always lined with dog treats!). This was a man who lived life to the fullest and with a good heart. The beauty of the mountains that surround the Coachella Valley is the legacy he leaves that will live on for many generations. Buford was loved and will be greatly missed. He is survived by his sister, Glenda Jett and his niece, Crystal Ray and her husband Mark, residents of Owensville, Missouri. His stepdaughter Cody Rosenthal and her daughter Caroline reside in Oregon.

To honor Buford’s legacy and keep his vision alive, please consider supporting the group he loved the most: Friends of the Desert Mountains ( ). A special donation fund has been created in Buford’s name on their website. A memorial celebration (including a hike) is planned for Tuesday, January 17 in Palm Desert. RSVP at

Copyright (C) 2022 Friends of the Desert Mountains. All rights reserved.

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