Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mom's Story

Mom's Story, A Child Learns About MS* featured at Barnes and Noble, 90th and Shea, Scottsdale, AZ  on December 6, 6:30-8:00 pm.

Discussion with three authors, including Mary Jo Nickum, about memoir writing. We will sell and sign our books after the talks.

*Ten percent of the net proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Poaching: A Backyard Crime

An Essay

The word “poaching” immediately conjures thoughts of massive elephants in Africa killed to have their tusks sawed off and then left to rot, but in the United States poaching is just as deadly and brutal. Wildlife officials estimate that for every wild animal killed legally – tens of millions of animals per year – another is killed illegally. And with scarce wildlife enforcement resources and countless acres of open land, only a scant few percent of poachers are caught and punished for their crimes.

What is Poaching?

First and foremost, it’s a crime! Poaching is a broad term that includes, but is not limited to, smuggling protected animals dead or alive, killing endangered and threatened animals, killing animals out of their hunting season, using illegal weapons, killing animals on closed land, or leading others to kill animals illegally as an unlicensed guide.

The callous details surrounding each poaching case are often chilling. In one Utah case, two teenagers, participating in a group training dogs to chase black bears, shot the mother bear and two cubs that had taken refuge in a tree, and then left the bears abandoned on the ground.

Criminal poaching rings in Montana have a substantial impact on statewide wildlife populations. For example, in two separate organized poaching-ring investigations that came together in 2005, more than 100 mature big game carcasses were found. Each animal was decapitated and the carcass left to rot.

Why do Poachers Kill?

Poaching is described by wildlife officers as everything from an “addiction” to a money-making industry. Most poachers see nothing wrong with the activity at all, but it’s a crime. Many poachers “thrill kill” animals to obtain a trophy for the wall. A poacher may kill a large elk or deer, chop off the head and valuable antlers and then leave the rest of the animal lying on the ground. Some stockpile the antlers or submit macabre photos depicting the kill to magazines that glorify the killing of a trophy animal.

Poaching has received study and analysis by researchers in the United Kingdom. The predominant view of poaching in the ecological literature is that it is unequivocally detrimental in terms of its impact on biodiversity. Sandra Bell and others, in a 2007 article published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation, state that poaching is rarely seen as unambiguously good or bad by citizens. In one study, researchers found that attitudes toward illegal fishing in Lithuania were best represented by a multi-dimensional spectrum of acceptability, based not only on the perceived threat to fish stocks, but also on a sense of cultural aesthetics, fairness, and identity. Similarly, another study identified a spectrum of ‘deviance’ for tree theft in a North American forest.

In their case study, Bell and colleagues found that poaching cannot be understood simply as an individual action. While individual motivations are important, these feed into and are supported by an underlying cultural logic. This cultural logic is itself flexible and responsive to the changing situation in which local fishermen and hunters, as well as environmental managers and enforcers, find themselves. It encourages environmental managers to distinguish between different forms of poaching and, perhaps, to direct research efforts into investigating the differential ecological impacts of the varied forms of poaching, rather than regarding them all as environmentally destructive. A striking feature of the situation in this study is that people who admit undertaking what they perceive as least detrimental forms of poaching are antagonistic towards what they think are truly harmful forms. Indeed, the fact that they appear willing to act and to support actions against types of poaching they agree to be threatening is a message of potentially great importance for environmental management strategy. However, these efforts can be undermined by the perceived injustice of a system of environmental management that appears indiscriminate in its treatment of offenders.

Clearly, according to the results of this research, one size does not fit all when managing the poaching problem. However, hunting and fishing regulations cannot be enforced effectively on a case-by-case basis. The human reasons for poaching cannot and should not be considered when these regulations are enforced. Law enforcement cannot be subjective, which only leads to bribery and corruption. With this variation in public opinion about poaching, law enforcement treads a difficult path.

Poaching rings can be commercial enterprises, such as a southwestern Montana ring near Gardiner. Between 1999 and 2004, a convicted commercial poacher was paid an estimated $90,000 by about 30 associates who poached more than 40 large and mature bull elk. Or a ring can be a family operation, as was the case in northwestern Montana, near Seeley Lake. A family poaching ring in operation from 1990 to 2002 killed dozens of game animals, including elk, moose, bear, and antelope, and more than100 buck deer.

Increasingly, wildlife officers find that organized poaching rings are proliferating because many of the poached animals can be traded on a lucrative black market. A set of bighorn sheep antlers may go for tens of thousands of dollars, and poachers can sell bear gall bladders to China where they are churned up for an aphrodisiac. Whether it’s for money or a thrill, it’s a crime!

State Wildlife Enforcement

All states and U.S. Territories have wildlife laws and regulations. They are enforced by wildlife officers trained in the fish and game regulations for the particular state. Regulations, including hunting and fishing seasons, differ from state to state. Interstate transport of an illegal take can be litigated as a felony by the Federal Government under the authority of the Lacey Act.

In Arizona, wildlife officers are stepping up efforts against the rising number of illegal immigrants hunting at night for meat to feed their families, and, in some cases, entire neighborhoods. “They know that buying drugs on the streets of Phoenix is illegal, but they don’t view shooting a deer as that big of a deal,” said Dinquel, a 20-year veteran with the game and fish department.

“Poaching is completely out of control in California,” said Dan Taylor, director of public policy at Audubon California. Poaching violations rose to 17,840 in California in 2007, up from 6,538 in 2003. Fishing violations also rose from 8,001 in 2003 to 15,892 in 2007. Taylor said the current penalties are not strict enough to discourage people from poaching. Cases of “extreme” poaching spiked in 2008, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. That year, a man in Gilroy was found with 335 dead birds, a Tuolumne County man was found with the scattered remains of an estimated 26 deer in his home, and two men in Monterey County were arrested for poaching 66 abalone.

California may be cracking down on poaching. Recently, the state Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously approved AB708, a bill that would set a mandatory minimum fine for some poaching violations, including hunting protected birds or hunting over the limit or out of season. The mandatory minimum fine for a first offense would be $5,000 for anyone illegally taking or trading amphibians, birds, fish, mammals or reptiles. The bill has already passed in the Assembly.

State wildlife law enforcement officers, often called Game Wardens, have arduous and sometimes dangerous jobs. They patrol the back country where there are no trails and must interact with lawbreakers who are armed. Recently, an armed confrontation between a father and teenage son reportedly fishing without a license and two Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers occurred. One officer reportedly had a handgun pointed at his head before he convinced the suspect not to shoot him, and a second officer later exchanged shots with the 18-year-old suspect during a chase near Ephrata before the teen was arrested. It marked the first time in “10 to 15 years” that a state wildlife officer fired his weapon at someone, said Lt. Steve Crown, who leads training for an enforcement division that includes 105 commissioned officers. “From a policing perspective, we are encountering a rougher crowd out there these days,” Cenci, deputy chief of field operations for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.

To be arrested for violating game laws doesn’t always mean killing animals. For nearly 20 years, the Oregon State Police Department’s Fish and Wildlife Division ran a decoy operation targeting violators who hunted out of season from their cars and roadways or at night with the aid of a spotlight. These violators were charged under state law for firing at a wildlife enforcement decoy, which is considered the same as firing at a live animal. All the same penalties apply.

The Federal Side of Wildlife Enforcement

There are Federal laws to protect migratory birds, endangered species, marine mammals and other kinds of wildlife and plants. Each is a separate Act, the most familiar being the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Constitution is the primary framework for Federal wildlife law. The Lacey Act is the most inclusive and explicit authority for Federal law wildlife enforcement. First enacted in 1900 and significantly amended in 1981, it is the United States’ oldest wildlife protection statute. The Lacey Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife, fish, or plants. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, effective May 22, 2008, amended the Lacey Act by expanding its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products. The Lacey Act now makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken or traded in violation of the laws of the United States, a State, or a foreign country. Though several state courts considered the constitutionality of the Act, no court found it unconstitutional. Its most recent amendment occurred in 2009, adding the illegal removal of trees to the list of enforceable activities.

Here is an example of federal law enforcement action under the authority of the Lacey Act:

Federal officials reported that an Arlington wildlife importer for whom they’ve issued an arrest warrant is a fugitive. An arrest warrant was issued for Jasen B. Shaw, who is wanted for violation of the Lacey Act, the main federal weapon against illegal hunting and criminal trade in wildlife. The Dallas Morning News reported that the arrest warrant was issued Feb. 10, but was kept confidential for several months. The reason for withholding the report was not given.

In December, more than 26,000 animals were seized from 37-year-old Shaw’s company, U.S. Global Exotics. Many of the animals were dead or dying. The company was later shut down. A special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told the newspaper that investigators believe Shaw fled to his native New Zealand to avoid prosecution.

The Lacey Act is a powerful tool in law enforcement against poachers. Poaching in all its forms is a crime and it will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

International Poaching

It’s not just in the U.S.; poaching is a world-wide problem. It is the single most destructive force on large wildlife from cats to elephants. International poaching and smuggling are done for the money! There are poaching rings that sell to the black market everything from tusks to gallbladders. Wildlife smuggling is an environmental crime that is estimated to be a $15-20 billion annual trade. Stemming the flow of illegal animals and animal parts is an international effort.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is the weapon of choice to fight this crime. It is an international agreement between governments, drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1973 at a meeting of members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants. To ensure that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was not violated, the Secretariat of GATT was consulted during the drafting process.

CITES is one of the largest conservation agreements in existence. Participation is voluntary, and countries that have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework respected by each Party, which must adopt their own domestic legislation to implement CITES at the national level. Often, domestic legislation is either non-existent (especially in Parties that have not ratified it), or with penalties incommensurate with the gravity of the crime and insufficient deterrents to wildlife traders. As of 2002, 50% of Parties lacked one or more of the four major requirements for a Party: designation of Management and Scientific Authorities; laws prohibiting the trade in violation of CITES; penalties for such trade; laws providing for the confiscation of specimens.

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of listed species to certain controls. These require that all import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a permitting system. Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade. Each protected species or population is included in one of three lists, called Appendices. The Appendix that lists a species or population reflects the extent of the threat to it and the controls that apply to the trade.

There are limitations to CITES, however. The most notable include:

• It focuses on trade at the species level and does not address habitat loss, ecosystem approaches to conservation, or poverty;

• It seeks to prevent unsustainable use rather than promote sustainable use, which generally conflicts with the Convention on Biological Diversity;

• It does not explicitly address market demand. Funding does not provide for increased on-the-ground enforcement; parties? must apply for bilateral aid for most projects of this nature.

By design, CITES regulates and monitors trade in the manner of a “negative list” such that trade in all species is permitted and unregulated unless the species in question appears on the Appendices or looks very much like one of those taxa, then, and only then, is trade regulated or constrained.

What You Can Do

This is a case of “Think globally, act locally.” In the U.S. and many industrialized nations, wildlife belongs to all people, but poachers who step into our wild backyard set out to exploit animals with the knowledge that they probably will not be caught. But by state and Federal wildlife agencies sharing information on poachers and citizens taking the role as stewards of wildlife seriously, these killings can be stopped. Here’s how you can help:

• Equip yourself with knowledge. Headed out to go hiking or bird-watching? Know your state’s wildlife regulations and hunting seasons so you can readily identify violations.

• If you see suspicious activity, don’t try to confront the individual. First, get a description of the poacher, the vehicle, and surrounding area.

• Second, call your state wildlife enforcement department immediately. The availability of cell phones makes this possible. Timeliness is necessary to catch poachers.

• Find your state’s poaching tip line and keep it on your cell phone list.

We can all fight this crime. You don’t have to be a wildlife enforcement officer, just an alert citizen.

Published in THE PATH issue #1, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011


THE PATH, a new literary magazine,is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. http://bit.ly/cJczhS

Friday, April 1, 2011

Seven Deadly Sins of a Writer

Writing is often considered to be an activity done from the heart. It can be a form of personal expression, revealing what you think, what you know, who you are. So how could it then be that you, a writer, have committed a sin?

Have you gotten too close to your work?

You’ve worked hard; your boss likes most of your writing. But there comes a time in every writer’s career when introspection is necessary. Is it time for you? This list of seven deadly sins for writers might help.

1. Deadly Sloppy Research. Nonfiction readers want accurate, reliable information. Nonfiction writers need to engage readers better than ever. After all, you are competing against 30-second commercials and all those TV shows that cover your subject. Don’t rely on your memory of something you saw on television; look it up. And use an authoritative source, preferably two or three. Never be satisfied with a random Internet search.

2. Deadly Prosaism. You want to present facts accurately. However, recitation of straight information put readers to sleep. Readers want more than just facts and figures. Include action sequences or quotations from experts, especially experts who have name recognition, to add color to any technical explanation or historical exposition.

3. Deadly Stereotyping. Avoid describing habits of people using “conventional wisdom” no matter how well you think it explains a point. Never refer to a person’s race, creed or other characteristics that are beyond the person’s control in a way that could be construed as negative.

4. Deadly Carelessness. Editors will not correct a typo-laden manuscript for a writer who is too lazy to proofread. Even with self-published books, mistakes on every page annoy readers and make them suspect you are equally careless with facts. Don’t expect your word processor to do the proofing, either. Few computer spell checkers know the difference between “their” and “there.” Word processing and e-mail software can even create errors; so manually give your writing a once-over to make sure automatic formatting hasn’t put any tabs where they shouldn’t be.

5. Deadly Lazy Marketing. Never just open a market database and start querying publishers in alphabetical order. Read the entries in full; publishers are disgusted with nonfiction writers’ ignoring of clear statements that “we publish only fiction.” Read your chosen publisher’s full official guidelines. And even if you’re self-publishing, have a clear idea of your anticipated reader demographic and where to find them. Remember, writers who aim at “everyone” never hit anyone.

6. Deadly Ego. Probably the No. 1 reason writers fail is that they expect their talent to absolve them of any real need to work. No author ever outgrows the imperfect first draft! Every writer can benefit from other authors’ input in the form of critique or collaboration. No successful author works in a vacuum.

7. Deadly Fear of Rejection. If a writer is paralyzed by the fear of rejection, the work never is submitted, let alone published. Every writer has experienced rejection at some time. It goes with the work. Relax and learn from it. Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Edgar Allen Poe received numerous rejections. All famous authors received rejections, but they didn’t let it stop them.


The “sins” of carelessness are easily overcome, just take your time and exhaust your sources. A feeling of pride in your work is necessary but shouldn’t become narcissistic. The fear of rejection, however, is often more difficult to overcome. There is no easy solution or recommendation, except to submit your work with the understanding that it may not get published the first time out. If the same piece is continually rejected, take a hard look at it and consult writer friends who have published. The editors rejecting the piece will not usually take the time to tell you how to improve the piece. They are too busy and want to spend time with pieces that will be published. The most important message is to keep trying, never give up.

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Defense of the Small Independent Publisher1

You have finished your final draft and you feel it’s ready for publication. Now you’re faced with the problem of where to send it. You’ve already checked some of the best known publishers, but most of them are closed to freelance submissions, requiring an agent to open those doors. Self-publishing is another option, but that requires a cash outlay that may be hard to justify. Enter the small independent publisher.

What is a small independent publisher? An independent publisher is any publishing company that operates on a traditional business model – where the money flows to the author – but is not owned by another company. That is, an independent publisher is not an imprint, nor an arm of another company. They are usually described as publishers with annual sales below a certain level. Commonly, in the United States, this is set at $50 million, after returns and discounts. Small presses are also defined as those that publish an average of fewer than 10 titles per year, though there are a few who manage to do more.

Although most trade books found in the chain bookstores are published by a few very large publishers, the vast majority of publishers are small. Currently, there are at least 50,000 publishers in the United States, and most of these publish fewer than 10 titles per year. In contrast, the largest publishers are multinational corporations, which own numerous subsidiary publishers and imprints (an imprint is essentially a line of books with a common theme or editor). Between the two extremes are the established small publishers that have grown to mid-size proportions, publishing perhaps 25 to 100 books per year.

The Publishing Industry at a Glance

Just like in other media markets, there are the major players and independent counterparts. In publishing, the Big Six are the entrenched, powerful entities, the “majors” in publishing. But independent publishers, when viewed as a group, are a major power unto themselves.

Just to be sure who we’re talking about, The Big Six Publishers are:

1. Random House - Random House, the world's largest English language general trade book publisher, is a subsidiary of media conglomerate, Bertelsmann.

2. Penguin Group - is collectively the second largest trade book publisher in the world, behind Random House.

And, in no particular order from here:

3. Hachette Book Group - Hachette Book Group USA (HBGUSA for short) is owned by French company, Hachette Livre.

4. HarperCollins - This house, under the News Corp umbrella, is based in midtown Manhattan and publishes a lengthy list of bestsellers.

5. Macmillan - Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, a division of the Educational and Professional Publishing Group of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

6. Simon & Schuster - a major trade house based in NYC that goes back to the early 1920s and was home to one of the industry's most famous editors, Maxwell Perkins.

The book publishing industry is traditionally divided into the following sectors:

• Trade: Most of the books you find at the bookstore and intended for the general public, often divided into "adult trade" and "juvenile trade."

• Professional: Books specific to a particular industry or even a particular company.

• Textbook: Books specifically targeted at students. This sector is divided into "el-hi" (elementary and high-school publishers) and "college."

• Scholarly: Specialized books, primarily published by the university presses.

• Religious: Books published by religious organizations for their members or potential members.

Small independent publishers may be found in all of these sectors.

An Independent Publisher may be for You

Why might an Independent “Indie” Publisher be preferable? There are some common qualities associated with independent publishers – they’re open to riskier content, they are willing to take the time to develop an author’s career and they’re specialized. Nevertheless, independent publishers account for almost half the books published annually.

The large number of independent publishers means there are options available to meet many needs. There are publishers that exist for nearly every imaginable genre and sub-genre. Also, there are regional publishers, micro-publishers, and electronic-only publishers.

Most publishers, especially small and mid-size publishers, specialize in specific topics or groups of topics. This trend is caused not only by the personal preferences of the management, but also by strategic necessity. By specializing, a publisher develops a keen sense of the market and a set of deep relationships with relevant channels. Some are more risk-takers, others are only willing to buy sure things. Some have a long and storied history, others crop up to meet a need and only release one or two books. How do you find these publishers?

• Search the internet

• Check with bookstores and libraries

• Ask other writers who you know.

Qualities that might make an Indie Publisher attractive:

 Plenty of author control – the author agrees to all changes

 Print on demand – there are no storage issues

 No agent is required – in fact, most agents won’t work with indies

 Higher royalties – you’ll make more money on book sales

 Contract is straight forward and simple to understand – you won’t need a lawyer to interpret it

 Best of all, it’s not self-publishing – so there’s no stigma attached, no money up front.

Independent publishers may NOT be the answer to your publishing needs if:

 You want your book to be on the table closest to the front door of Barnes and Noble, this is definitely not for you.

 You are working through an agent,

 Your book contains color photos or illustrations.

What to Watch for

Here are some terms and statements to watch for in your search for an “indie” publisher:

 Book printer vs. publisher vs. book distributor; here’s the difference. A book printer is just that, a printer. A publisher works with the author to develop a marketable product and, through established contacts, will assist the author in selling the book. A book distributer gets books from the publishing house to the bookstores. A distributer does not print books or communicate with authors.

 RED FLAG: if a “Publisher” wants money upfront. This is the fastest way to distinguish an independent publisher from a vanity press. An independent publisher will never charge money for publication, marketing or any aspect of publishing your book.

 Look for a statement like this: “We are not a vanity or subsidy press. We will charge no reading or critiquing fees. Editorial services will only be rendered if a book is chosen for publication. If we elect not to use submitted material, it will be returned without comment (see our Submission Guidelines).”

 The publisher’s website and their catalog are the most reliable sources of information about the publisher and their practices.


For an author, independent publishers provide another avenue for publication, with many accepting unsolicited submissions, something that’s virtually unheard of at imprints of the Big Six. They come with upsides and downsides that differ with each publisher, but for an author the more options, the better.

For an increasing number of authors, it is the fastest and easiest way to publish without the stigma or cost of self-publishing or vanity publishing. As with any publishing venture, DO YOUR HOME WORK!

Published in Outdoors Unlimited January, 2011

1Mary Nickum presented this paper at the Outdoor Writers Association of America Annual Meeting, June, 2010 in Rochester, MN.