All posts by joannemerriam

2019 in pictures

Overall it’s been a good year. I’ve been stressed a lot about the news and have spent a lot of time on get-out-the-vote activities to try to counter the current administration, but my personal life has been, on balance, wonderful. No romantic ruptures, the usual financial stresses haven’t prevented us from traveling, my husband’s period of unemployment was resolved without too much pain and he loves his new job, illnesses have been short-lived, that sort of thing.

In March, I published Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up To No Good, a horror anthology edited by Octavia Cade and including fiction by Chikodili Emelumadu, Jasmyne J. Harris, and Catherynne M. Valente. It’s the last thing Upper Rubber Boot will publish for awhile, because I was getting severely burned out between my day job, my political activism, and running the press (never mind my own writing, which I’ve neglected for the past decade). I plan to start the press back up again once Trump is out of power, probably on a reduced schedule.

My parents came down for a week in April, and we did several hikes in state parks, went to the Nashville Zoo, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Bluebird Cafe, and generally hung out.

I went kayaking a lot, and (not pictured) figured out how to sleep in my hammock in the winter (essentially the secret is a really good sleeping bag and extra blankets under your back, plus of course a tarp to keep off dew).

We went to see Alan’s best friend Jason and some other folks in the Pacific Northwest in July, where we saw these guys:

At Point Defiance Park

Arguably the biggest thing that happened this year was that, after about a two-year wait (post-application, I mean; I’d lived here for 12 years before I was even eligible to apply), I was finally sworn in as a US citizen.

I immediately volunteered for Ginny Welsch, who was running for my district on the Nashville Metro Council. I handcrafted about 1,000 postcards for her; it pretty much used all my free time for two months or so (I’m finding that crafting helps to relieve the anxiety I’ve been feeling under this administration). This was the first election in the US in which I voted!

Becoming a citizen meant that I was able to get my US passport (at the end of August), which meant that I was able to travel internationally again (you can get a waiver to allow travel but it’s expensive and complicated, so I just stayed in the US). I went to see my sister and her family in Alberta in October:

I also went home to see my family and friends in Halifax in November:

Me with my mum on Lawrencetown Beach

In late autumn, the last of our five bunnies, Scrambles the Death Destroyer, passed away at 11 years old. Here she is last summer:

Last week, my team at work (a large academic hospital that I won’t name as it would make me subject to their social media policy, but where I very much enjoy my day job managing the lives of several head and neck cancer surgeons and running educational and alumni programming) tried, and failed, to defend their first-place rank in the second annual gingerbread decorating contest. We had a pretty cool castle though, with a melted jolly rancher lake:

Gingerbread castle (third place ain’t too shabby)

We decided this year to go to Cocoa Beach for Christmas, since we had no family obligations and wanted warmth. It was beautiful and relaxing, and we got to see a Surfin’ Santas competition (evidently an annual tradition) and the Kennedy Space Center.

Surfin’ Santas at Cocoa Beach

Finally, I succeeded at my reading goal which I tracked through Goodreads. I wanted something to kickstart reading again (for the past several years, almost all of my reading has been submissions and editing, and I wanted to get back to recreational reading). Last night, I finished the 100th book and met my goal (it says 102, but two were actually short stories). I expect I’ll read one more before the end of the year, since I’m halfway through one now.

Past Year in Pictures

My best friend Louise got ovarian cancer, and was diagnosed in late 2016. I spent most of my vacation time in 2017 going to see her in my hometown of Halifax. Here we are in the Public Gardens in July 2017, one of her favourite places. There will be a bench dedicated to her there.

I finally went to see SEE ROCK CITY, as every second barn in Tennessee tells you to do, and Lookout Mountain.

My favourite memory from Christmas was decorating a gingerbread house at a friend’s place. Every year they have a big party with scores of people and tons of candy. It was so much fun.

A few days later, on December 22, 2017, Louise died. I got the text from her mother while I was at the ER for intense pain that turned out to be gallbladder attacks (preferable to the heart attack I thought I was having). It was a terrible day.

I had my gallbladder out in January. I had some complications that caused me to develop pancreatitis, and I don’t have very clear memories of the time in the hospital. I recovered reasonably quickly, though, and was basically back to normal by March, just in time for my very first cruise, a short 4-day excursion to the Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport). It was just the restorative vacation I needed. We ate stupidly good food and sat on our balcony and looked at the ocean. I felt very fancy. The best bit was the underwater excursion we did: the divers who went with us had lots of fish food, so the fish swarmed around us, and we got to see some very cool underwater statues. It was beautiful.

I’ve also taken up kayaking, which is wonderful exercise and makes me feel calmer and more balanced. I just love the water and being out in nature.

I spent most of April in Kickstarter hell, but was excited to make the money to be able to pay the contributors to Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up To No Good (which I also edited) and Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up To No Good (edited by Octavia Cade). I’ve mostly spent the summer working on those, kayaking, and writing postcards to voters. We also took a trip to see our friend Jason in Tacoma, but flew into San Francisco so we could drive through the redwoods and swing through Portland to see a good friend who lives there.

Now that it’s September, I’m concentrating on getting Broad Knowledge out the door and writing postcards to voters for the mid-terms. (Americans reading this, for the love of all that’s holy, vote in this election.)

Good Lord

I feel like all I do is post annually to say I’m rilly rilly busy you guys but yeah.

Otherwise, I’m hard at work on a Kickstarter slated for April for the next two volumes of the Women Up To No Good Series, and on St. Patrick’s Day I’m clubbing together with Reckoning Magazine and Brandon Crilly of Sunvault to do the first of a monthly Twitter chat on solarpunk, under #SolarpunkChat. Pretty psyched about both!

I’m also spending my activism energy on get out the vote activities, mainly through Postcards to Voters.

And, totally unrelated to all of the above, the medical mission I volunteer with, More Than Medicine, is going to Haiti and Kijabe, Kenya in the next couple months, so if you have some spare cash, a donation goes a really long way!

Save National Monuments

A number of national monuments are in danger of losing their protections from new development, like oil and gas drilling. At the direction of President Trump via executive orders 13792 (“Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act”) and 13795 (“Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy”), some national monuments are being reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, including Arizona’s Grand Canyon-Parashant, California’s Mojave Trails and Giant Sequoia, Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients, Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea, Idaho’s Craters of the Moon, Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters, New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, Washington’s Hanford Reach, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Marianas Trench in the Pacific. Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument will receive special attention and has a shorter comment period.

Comments may be submitted online at by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

For the Bears Ears National Monument, comments must be submitted before May 26 (notice in the Federal Register). Written comments for all other monuments must be submitted before July 10, 2017.




It’s unprecedented (and legally untested) for a president to repeal existing monuments, and puts at risk not only these particular monuments, but potentially the Antiquities Act of 1906 itself.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is meeting with Phil Lyman, who was among those charged with breaking federal law by riding off-road vehicles through native sacred area Recapture Canyon, but is holding at arms-length the Native American nations who spearheaded the effort to create the Bears Ears monument in southern Utah, and putting the Resource Advisory Councils (citizen-appointed groups who weigh in on Bureau of Land Management decisions) on hold for the summer. The postponement of Resource Advisory Council meetings exactly coincides with the window of time for monument evaluations, shutting local stakeholders out of the process.

Taken all together, it’s obvious that Zinke is attempting to stack the comments in favor of the logging, mining, and oil and gas companies who want to exploit these public lands.

Trump states that he issued the executive orders to “end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people,” but (while the Act has no written requirement for public input or Congressional approval) typically national monuments are only designated after lengthy periods of public input and considerable lobbying by native nations or by historical, archeological, or environmental societies.

Write to the U.S. Department of the Interior to ask them to leave these national monument designations unaffected. These are places that are important to the environment, to the cultural heritage of the country (especially the cultural heritage of Native Americans), and critical to the economy left just as they are. According to the Sierra Club, “Protected outdoor spaces drive the outdoor recreation economy which supports 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year. National monuments and public lands are vital both for the history they preserve and the future they offer.”



My friend Roz Spafford came up with a frame for a letter. Please customize this as much as you can with personal details and a few of the bullet points listed below.

The full list of national monuments being reviewed (at least so far), talking points for each location, and sources, are all listed below. Where you have personal experience with a monument, please stress that in your comments.

Thanks for being here with me in fighting this appalling handout to energy companies at the expense of the nation.


Sample Letter

Monument Review
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Attention: Secretary Zinke

Thank you for taking account of public interest in national monuments [or something else respectful, not outraged].

I am very much in favor of keeping [name of monument] exactly as designated [or another summary statement of your position]. I have carefully reviewed the [Final Soda Mountain Wilderness Stewardship Plan – substitute appropriate name] and noted that local people, [including land owners, hunters, fishermen, and hikers – substitute appropriate groups], indigenous people with a connection to the land, and business people in the area were systematically consulted, and their interests represented in the final decision. [Edit as appropriate or use bullet points below relating to the monument you are writing about: Not only was the public consulted as the plan was being constructed, but they had the opportunity to appeal once the draft plan was produced. Fire suppression, trail maintenance, access for disabled persons, water preservation, and many other issues were taken into account.]

[Name of monument] is […whatever is notable about it] and I [have visited it in the past/hope to visit it next year]. [If you have any particular information based on visits to the place, or want to include any talking points from the list above, note it here.]

[Name of monument] should be preserved as is so that future generations will have the opportunity to use the land; a decision to change the designation in some way to permit resource extraction would preclude many future uses. I urge you to preserve it intact for all Americans.

[your address]


National Monuments Under Threat


Basin and Range (Nevada):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Bears Ears (Utah):

Sources: Header Economics; Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition; Sierra Club press release

  • Bears Ears is home to centuries’ worth of irreplaceable cultural artifacts including cliff dwellings, hogans, and pictographs.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior’s 12/28/2016 press release about the designation of this monument stated in part that then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell attended “a public meeting where the majority of an overflow crowd encouraged permanent protection for this iconic landscape,” that “Native American tribes whose ancestral lands include the Bears Ears area advocated for permanent protection, led by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition made up of the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Zuni Tribe,” and that other supporters “include elected officials in Utah, national and local conservation groups, archaeologists, and faith-based organizations. Recreationists strongly support the monument, which will protect the area’s world-class rock climbing, hunting, backpacking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and off-highway vehicle recreation—activities that will continue to be a source of economic growth for southeastern Utah.”
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior’s 12/28/2016 press release about the designation of this monument called it “one of the richest cultural landscapes in the United States, with thousands of archaeological sites and areas of spiritual significance.”
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior’s 12/28/2016 press release about the designation of this monument quoted Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye as saying, “The land has always been a place of sacredness and fortitude for our people. Now it will be preserved for all future generations.”
  • The Bears Ears National Monument is comprised exclusively of existing federal lands.
  • The Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition (, which proposed the monument designation, notes that the Navajo people have a term for places that are the least disturbed and most biodiverse: “we call them
    Nahodishgish, or ‘places to be left alone.'”
  • In 2014, Headwaters Economics found that rural counties with 30% or more land with federal protection enjoyed 262% more job growth over the last 40 years than rural counties without.

Berryessa Snow Mountain (California):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Canyons of the Ancients (Colorado):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Carrizo Plain (California):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Cascade-Siskiyou (Oregon):

Sources: Soda Mountain Wilderness Final Stewardship Plan (PDF); Cascade-Siskiyou: Visitor Information; Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou; Archaeological Investigations of the Siskiyou Trail Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Jackson County, Southern Oregon University; Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: A Summary of Economic Performance in the Surrounding Communities

  • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument lies at the convergence of three geologically-distinct mountain ranges, resulting in an area with remarkable biological diversity and a tremendously varied landscape.
  • Many archaeological and historical sites are also found throughout the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, providing clues to Native American use of the area and tracing portions of the historic Oregon/California Trail, which has been in use throughout recorded history by local tribes, and then later as a fur trader route, gold miner’s pack trail, and emigrant wagon road. Beginning in the 1820s, this trail linked the burgeoning Euro-American settlers of the Willamette Valley with the Sacramento Valley/San Francisco area.
  • Southern Oregon University archeologists note the importance of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument’s Oregon/California Trail: “The trail likely was used by Shasta and Takelma people for millennia, and Indian people guided the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden over the summit in 1827. After being used as a fur trader’s route, the trail was ‘opened’ by Ewing Young in the 1830s, when he drove cattle over the summit from California to provision (in the face of English interests) the burgeoning American settlements in the Willamette Valley. The trail was also the route taken by thousands of White Oregonians following the discovery of gold in northern California in 1848, and the ‘gold rush’ in turn spurred the settlement of the Rogue River valley. The Siskiyou Summit was one arena of conflict during the Rogue River wars, as Indians and Pioneers fought over possession of the State of Jefferson. In the final decades of the 19th century, development of the trail mirrored the attempts by the victorious Americans to integrate themselves into a larger, capitalist, landscape: the trail was re-engineered and re-plotted as a toll/stage road in 1860; a telegraph line was completed in 1864; and the SouthernPacific Railroad was completed in 1887.”
  • After the 2000 designation of the monument, the population of the Jackson County communities neighboring the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument grew by 10%. Jobs grew by 16%; real per-capita income by 8%; and real personal income by 19%. In general, Western counties with protected public lands, like national monuments, are more successful at attracting economic investment, new residents, and tourists, and as a result grow more quickly than counties without protected public lands. Protected natural scenery also helps sustain property values.

Craters of the Moon (Idaho):

Sources: National Park Service: Craters of the Moon;

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Giant Sequoia (California):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Gold Butte (Nevada):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Grand Canyon-Parashant (Arizona):

Sources: National Park Service: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument Long-Range Interpretive Plan (pdf); Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument : record of decision, approved resource management plan by United States. Bureau of Land Management. Arizona Strip District; United States. National Park Service; Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Agency : U.S.)

  • The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument was established on January 11, 2000, through Presidential Proclamation 7265. It is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
  • The Monument covers a million acres in the far Northwest corner in Mohave County, Arizona. The interior of the Monument has no paved roads or visitor services; entrance is by way of St. George, Utah.
  • The area preserves a unique archaeological record of the Pueblo and Southern Paiute people, going back 11,000 years, and continues to be important to the Southern Paiute people.
  • It also preserves historical ranches and mining sites, recording a way of life quickly disappearing.
  • The Monument is home to the desert tortoise, the California condor and other endangered species.
  • It contains and protects an important watershed for the Colorado River.
  • It contains unique geological features created by volcanic activity and erosion by the Colorado River.
  • The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is unique in that while parts of it consist of isolated high desert, other areas permit cattle grazing, and indeed some 15,000 cattle are currently run in the area.
  • The Monument contains the Lake Mead Recreation Area, a rare and important location for Mohave County residents to boat, swim, fish, and relax.
  • There was minimal opposition to the environmental impact report for the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument; only seven letters of protest were filed—and several of these advocated for more, not less protection of the area.
  • Concern over this monument may reflect widespread objections to the similarly-named proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, which would have prevented uranium mining in the area of the Grand Canyon and given Native American tribes more authority over the area. President Obama declined to establish that monument and so it is especially important that this one be preserved.

Grand Staircase-Escalante (Utah):

Header Economics;

  • The Wilderness Society quotes the Utah Geological Association stating, “Nowhere else in the world are the rocks and geologic features so well exposed, so brilliantly colored, and so excitingly displayed.”
  • The Grand Staircase preserves Native American and Mormon Settler heritage.
  • There has been continued access for hunting, fishing and grazing within the Monument.
  • The Monument, touted as one of Utah’s prime attractions, is popular among Utah residents. A 2011 poll of registered Utah voters by Republicans for Environment Protection found that 69% believe the Grand Staircase is good for Utah, and 62% believe it’s a significant economic benefit.
  • According to Bureau of Land Management figures, the Escalante Visitor Center saw a 51% increase in
    visitation from 2015 to 2016. 2016 tourism taxes for the two counties that house the Grand Staircase, Garfield and Kane, totaled nearly $4.6 million.
  • In 2014, Headwaters Economics found that rural counties with 30% or more land with federal protection enjoyed 262% more job growth over the last 40 years than rural counties without.

Hanford Reach (Washington):

Sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Hanford Reach National Monument | Washington

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Ironwood Forest (Arizona):

Sources: The importance of Olneya tesota as a nurse plant in the Sonoran Desert (Journal of Vegetation Science); Friends of Ironwood Forest: About: History; Desert Ironwood Primer; Ironwood Forest National Monument: A Summary of Economic Performance in the Surrounding Communities

  • The Monument has evidence of approximately 8,000 years of human history, including evidence of campsites and villages occupied by the Hohokam and the Tohono O’odham.
  • The Monument is named for the densest stands of desert ironwood in the world. The ironwood tree serves over 600 species of plants and animals by providing shade, food, perches, and shelter. Since it’s a legume, its roots host nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which enrich the soil.
  • While not yet considered to be threatened as a species, the population is decreasing rapidly in part because of its extremely slow recovering after exploitation.
  • The many indigenous and ethnic cultures of the Sonoran Desert value the ironwood tree as both a cultural and an ecological resource.
  • A significant concentration of desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) are found in Ironwood Forest, acting as a nurse plant and habitat modifier species in the Sonoran Desert.
  • After its designation in 2000, the communities in Pima County, Arizona neighboring the Ironwood Forest National Monument experienced strong growth: the population grew by 19%; jobs by 18%; real per capita income by 10%; and real personal income by 31%. Much of this population and job growth is due to people with service jobs (like doctors, engineers, and teachers) choosing to move to places with a high quality of life. Conserving public lands highlights the amenities that draw residents, tourists, and businesses to surrounding localities.

Katahdin Woods and Waters (Maine):

Sources: Sierra Club press release; Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association; testimony by Lucas St. Clair; The Wilderness Society press release

  • A statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association, noted that, “Over a more than four year public engagement period, the opportunity to protect the lands as a national park site gained support from more than 200 Maine businesses and organizations including the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Katahdin Rotary Club, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor City Council and the Maine Innkeepers Association. Nearly 1,400 Maine residents joined a public meeting in Orono, Maine, most of whom supported national park designation for the lands.”
  • The land east of Maine’s Baxter State Park was bought by Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, whose foundation donated it to the federal government. Her son, Lucas St. Clair, presented in defense of Katahdin Woods and Waters to the House Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee, stating in part that advocates of a Katahdin national park “delivered more than 13,000 signatures in support,” that a public meeting in Orono drew 1400 Mainers, an “impressive turnout” for a “state where the population of 60% of our towns is less than 2000 residents.” He also noted that “of the roughly 400 handwritten comments collected at the meeting, approximately 95% supported a national monument.”
  • The Wilderness Society notes that Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument “includes vital habitat and migration corridors for moose, bear, lynx and Atlantic salmon as well as beloved outdoor recreation spots.”
  • The local economy, which had been suffering from the decline of the wood products industry, has reaped the benefits of heightened visibility as real estate sales and multi-season visitation are increasing.

Marianas Trench (CNMI/Pacific Ocean):

Sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (factsheet); Proclamation 8335; The Economic Impact of a Proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (The Pew Charitable Trusts)

  • I am particularly concerned about the review of this marine national monument, given that the executive order under which it is being reviewed is entitled “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” Offshore energy development will be particularly destructive to the ecology of this area.
  • The waters around the Northern Mariana Islands are some of the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific—and they include the greatest diversity of hydrothermal vent life ever discovered. Greater biodiversity ensures the natural sustainability of all life forms, including human beings. One vent produces almost pure carbon dioxide (which has only been observed in one other location on Earth)
  • Some of the reefs in the monument are considered pristine and support large numbers of sharks and reef fish.
  • The monument protects many unique or rare habitats: reef habitats that require basalt (a type of volcanic rock that is not required by other reefs across the Pacific); the largest active mud volcanoes on Earth; a vent that produces almost pure carbon dioxide (which has only been observed in one other location on Earth); a crater which is one of only a few places on Earth where photosynthesising and chemosynthesising communities co-exist; and a pool of liquid sulfur (the only other known location of molten sulfur is on one of Jupiter’s moons, Io).
  • Prior to the designation, The Pew Charitable Trusts conservatively estimated “annual benefits of approximately $10 million in spending in comparison with annual costs of perhaps $1 million.”
  • Prior to the designation, The Pew Charitable Trusts assessed the economic impact of the monument. They noted, “There is a value associated with a fishing ban in the Monument area. Sanctuaries, in other words, support fisheries by offering a refuge that increases the fish stock, which might the nmigrate into areas that allow extractive activities.” and “The non-use values were clearly in the minds of the drafters of the CNMI constitution when Article XIV was formulated. While difficult to measure, it is this bequest value, or the value of keeping one’s options open, that is at the core of much of the preservation demonstrated by the designation of parks, sanctuaries, and monuments.”

Mojave Trails (California):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts (Atlantic Ocean):

Sources: Audubon press release; NOAA press release; FACT SHEET: President Obama to Continue Global Leadership in Combatting Climate Change and Protecting Our Ocean by Creating the First Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean; Proclamation

  • I am particularly concerned about the review of this marine national monument, given that the executive order under which it is being reviewed is entitled “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” Offshore energy development will be particularly destructive to the ecology of this area.
  • The first and only marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts protects delicate deep-sea ecosystems off the coast of New England.
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts encompasses untouched underwater mountains and canyons and provides critical protections for important ecological resources and marine species, including deep-sea corals, and endangered whales and sea turtles.
  • Established to help to sustain the ocean ecosystems and fishing economies in these regions, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is a sanctuary that supports fisheries by offering a refuge that increases the fish stock.
  • Its unique geological features that have been the focus of scientific study since the 1970s.
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is home to: over 50 species of deep sea corals, including coral species not found anywhere else on Earth; other rare fish, invertebrates, and protected species like the endangered Kemp’s Ridley turtle; and many marine mammals, including sperm whales, fin whales, and sei whales, all endangered. Maine’s vulnerable Atlantic puffin frequents the canyon and seamount area.
  • Established in response to nearly 50 years of calls to protect the area, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts
  • These habitats are very sensitive to disturbance from extractive activities.
  • It includes three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, which provide feeding grounds to many marine species (by moving nutrients) and influence the distribution patterns of migratory oceanic species as tuna, billfish, and sharks. It also includes four underwater mountains known as “seamounts” that are biodiversity hotspots and home to many rare and endangered species. The steep, complex topography of the seamount edges affect currents, providing plankton and other nutrients to the seamount communities.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (New Mexico):

Sources: Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument; Bureau of Land Management information; information

  • This monument covers several types of terrains: mountains, canyons, deserts, grasslands, volcanic flows, and riparian areas.
  • Important cultural and historical features include ancient petroglyphs and archaeological sites, Spanish settlement on the Camino Real, Western history related to Billy the Kid, Geronimo, and the Butterfield Stagecoach route, sites for training for World War II bomber pilots and crews, and even training for the Apollo Space Program.
  • Many recreational opportunities are available, including camping, climbing, hiking, hunting, and mountain biking.
  • These activities draw visitors to the area and provide jobs and income to the region: an estimated $17 million and nearly 200 jobs according to a report prepared for the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce.
  • A broad coalition of interests worked together to ensure the monument was created, including Native and Hispano groups. In a recent survey, 83% of local citizens expressed their support for the creation of the National Monument.

Pacific Remote Islands (Pacific Ocean):

Sources: Establishment of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument – A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America (Presidential Proclamation 8336) (pdf); FACT SHEET: President Obama to Designate Largest Marine Monument in the World Off-Limits to Development; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Pacific Remote Islands: Marine National Monument | US Minor Outlying Islands

  • I am particularly concerned about the review of this marine national monument, given that the executive order under which it is being reviewed is entitled “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” Offshore energy development will be particularly destructive to the ecology of this area.
  • These islands act as refuges, which are, as President Bush noted in his proclamation, “the most widespread collection of marine- and terrestrial-life protected areas on the planet under a single country’s jurisdiction.”
  • The refuges protect many species that are unique to the area (that is, they are not found anywhere else), including corals, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, seabirds, water birds, land birds, insects, and vegetation. Notably, the monument protects the Hawaiian Monk seal (endangered), the Hawksbill turtle (critically endangered) and the Green sea turtle (endangered).
  • The deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.
  • The seven atolls that make up this monument are further from people (specifically, population centers) than any other U.S. area.
  • At least 323 species of fish are supported by the monument area, including several species which are globally depleted [e.g. the Napoleon wrasse (Chelinus) and the Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometapon)].
  • Due to the Equatorial Undercurrent that creates localized nutrient-rich upwellings in shallows next to the island, the fish biomass of the monument area is 16 times that of the main Hawaiian islands, creating a predator-dominated system with extreme biodiversity. There are only six islands in the entire Pacific Ocean where this phenomenon is possible. The three islands included in the monument contain a biomass of top predators which exceeds that of the Great Barrier Reef or Kenyan Marine Protected Areas. Endangering this irreplaceable biodiversity would be irresponsible. Greater biodiversity ensures the natural sustainability of all life forms, including human beings.
  • As President Bush’s proclamation noted, “Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef are known to be among the most pristine coral reefs in the world, with a fully structured inverted food web. Kingman Reef is the most pristine of any reef under U.S. jurisdiction. They are ideal laboratories for assessing effects of climate change without the difficulty of filtering anthropogenic impacts.”

Papah&‌#257;naumoku&‌#257;kea (Hawaii/Pacific Ocean), or the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument:

From the Citizen’s Guide to Papahanaumokuakea (pdf):

  • Part of why President Bush issued his proclamation designating this area was the more than 52,000 public comments submitted during the five-year national marine sanctuary designation process, the majority of which were in favor of strong protection.
  • Papah&‌#257;naumoku&‌#257;kea is the first mixed (both natural and cultural) UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States.
  • About 25% of the marine species in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are not found anywhere but the Hawaiian Archipelago, and at Pearl and Hermes, Midway and Kure atolls over half of the fish populations are composed of unique species.
  • The coral reefs shelter hundreds of thousands of species, protect Hawaiian shores from storms, and shape the waves that created the sport of surfing, a huge driver of tourism.
  • With the Great Barrier Reef dying from bleaching and other coral reefs around the world in decline, the vast and healthy coral reefs here are even more vital to the health and biological diversity of our oceans. Given their fragile structure, the reefs are very susceptible to damage from overfishing and shoreline development, which are bound to occur if Papah&‌#257;naumoku&‌#257;kea’s status as a marine national monument is revoked.
  • A 2002 study estimated the value of these coral reefs to Hawaii’s economy at $364 million.
  • Each year; the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) provide predator-free breeding sites for grey-backed tern, short-tailed albatross, Laysan albatross, black-footed albatross, red-tailed tropicbird, and other seabirds, and the last safe nesting places for species like Bonin petrels and Tristram’s storm-petrels, since islands in other parts of the Pacific are becoming infested with rats which are likely to continue to spread if the area is not protected from development.
  • The endangered Nihoa finch, Nihoa millerbird, and Laysan finch, and the world’s rarest duck species, the Laysan Duck, are found on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI).
  • Nihoa Island is one of the most biologically pristine islands in the world, and closely represents the original appearance and native species found before humans arrived.

Rio Grande del Norte (New Mexico):

  • The Wilderness Society notes that the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument “protects some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico, including habitat for elk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and great horned owl.”
  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Rose Atoll (American Samoa/Pacific Ocean):

Sources: Bush Conserves Vast Areas of Pacific Ocean as Monuments; Establishment of the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Rose Atoll Marine National Monument

  • I am particularly concerned about the review of this marine national monument, given that the executive order under which it is being reviewed is entitled “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” Offshore energy development will be particularly destructive to the ecology of this area.
  • The atoll is home to a diverse group of terrestrial and marine species, many of which are threatened or endangered, and supports about 100 species of corals. Some species have worldwide populations that have declined by as much as 98%, but are found in abundance in the atoll, including giant clams (conservation dependent), Maori wrasse (endangered), large parrotfishes, blacktip reef sharks (near threatened), whitetip reef sharks (near threatened), and gray reef sharks (near threatened). The area also provides isolated and undisturbed nesting grounds for the largest number of nesting turtles in American Samoa.
  • The shallow reefs are dominated by crustose coralline algae, unique among Somoan islands.
  • Rose Atoll is one of the least-visited places in the world, making it uniquely pristine, and invaluable for biological and geological studies.
  • Rose Atoll supports 97% of the seabird population of American Samoa, including 12 federally-protected migratory seabirds, five species of federally protected shorebirds, and a migrant forest bird, the long-tailed cuckoo. The atoll protects rare species of nesting petrels, shearwaters, and terns.
  • Rose Island is home to the only flowering plant Pisonia forest community remaining in Samoa.
  • The early Polynesians of Samoa likely visited the atoll periodically over the past 1000 years or more. Several species, such as the giant clam, were used for cultural celebrations and events.

San Gabriel Mountains (California):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Sand to Snow (California):

Sources: Presidential Proclamation; The Wildlands Conservancy: Sand to Snow National Monument; updated conservation status via Wikipedia, Centre for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the ECOS Environmental Conservation Online System.

  • The park protects a significant wildlife corridor between the Joshua Tree National Park, the Bighorn Mountain Wilderness area, and the San Bernardino National Forest/San Gorgonio Wilderness area.
  • Sand to Snow includes a convergence of three distinct ecosystems: the California chaparral and woodlands, the Mojave Desert to the east, and the Sonoran Desert. Over 1,600 different plant species are native to the range.
  • Sand to Snow is the most botanically-rich national monument in the United States. It includes species from the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, chaparral (a shrub land or heathland plant community), oak woodland, coniferous forest, and alpine ecosystems.
  • The area protects 12 federally-listed threatened and endangered animal species, including the endangered Arroyo toad, Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, Mountain Yellow-legged frog, peninsular bighorn sheep, San Bernardino Merriam’s kangaroo rat, Santa Ana sucker, and unarmored threespine stickleback. It’s also famous for its oases frequented by over 240 species of birds, including the endangered Least Bell’s vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher, and Yuma clapper rail. Additionally, 32 species of migratory birds of conservation concern live in the Sand to Snow area, including eagles, falcons, hummingbirds, owls, sparrows, and woodpeckers.
  • Human history in the area extends back thousands of years. The Cahuilla Indians, the Gabrielino Indians, and the Luiseño Indians consider the San Gorgonio Mountain to be sacred.

Sonoran Desert (Arizona):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Upper Missouri River Breaks (Montana):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.

Vermilion Cliffs (Arizona):

  • Talking points and sources coming soon.


More Sources:

Many thanks to Roz Spafford, Anne Gregory, and David R. Stokes for their research assistance.

Snow day

It’s a snow day, Tennessee-style (which means we’ll get maybe two cm of snow, but tons of ice which we don’t have the infrastructure to combat), so I am home from work.

I’ve got a bunch of changes in my professional life planned for 2016: I am minimizing the number of titles Upper Rubber Boot Books puts out every year (in 2015, we had 5 titles including two anthologies I edited or co-edited, and in 2014 we had 11 titles—9 were short stories so less work than a full-length book, but still). For 2016 and 2017, I will be releasing two titles only: Floodgate and an anthology. 2016’s anthology is The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom, an adventure sci-fi anthology I am also editing (Facebook updates here), and 2017’s is not announced yet (but stuff is happening, and that one I won’t be editing).

All of this is in the service of being able to write more. I want to keep this site more updated, instead of (or in addition to) posting all my thoughts to social media where they effectively disappear after a few days. I have ideas for three different novels, two of which I’ve written a bit on, and about 20 short stories, and I need to do some writing (probably mostly poetry, and some non-fiction) about my trip to Kenya.

My day job is supporting four otolaryngologists (ENT doctors) who mostly concentrate on head and neck cancers and other issues of the head and neck. (I do a bunch of other stuff too, like running some lecture series, etc., but that’s not important for the purposes of this story.) They have medical missions in Africa (currently: Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda) and took me to Malindi, Kenya this past October to help with their two-week surgical camp in Tawfiq Hospital.

The University of Nairobi has an ENT residency, and Kenya has about 60 practicing ENT surgeons. What they don’t have is an equivalent for our head and neck fellowship program, and the State of Tennessee makes it difficult for us to provide fellowship training to doctors whose residency was done outside the US and Canada because we have to jump through too many hoops to get such doctors credentialed for it to be practicable. We have cobbled together some extra training for these surgeons which consists of them doing visiting observational scholarships at our hospital (observational means they don’t touch patients, because of the licensure/credentialing issue) and also attending our surgical camps, where we concentrate on education, so the surgeries are done by our doctors and their doctors in concert. The patients pay nothing, which is a tremendous benefit to them because surgical care is so expensive in relation to the average salary.

The power keeps going out; they have a backup generator for the OR but not for the clinic. Here we’re using a surgical headlamp as a flashlight.
A big keloid (a kind of scar that keeps growing). If I remember correctly, this patient had had jaw surgery and this keloid grew from his incision. Keloids are benign, but can cause problems—this one was painfully pulling on his face. Keloids are very common in Kenya, not for environmental reasons (afaik anyway) as people keep assuming when I tell them this but because they’re something like fifteen times as common in African-descended people than in Caucasians. As you might guess, Africa has a few more Africans than the US does; we saw a lot of keloids.
Typical breakfast, including arrowroot, passionfruit, and these great little bananas that were way more flavourful than ours (and pineapple that was almost flavourless).
A Swahili adult literacy class I was lucky enough to attend. The Caris Foundation, who paid for our hotel and helped a lot with logistics, took a group of us to see their other local projects.
Bank book for a microfinance group for single mothers who run their own businesses. They had spent ten months paying back a 5,000 shilling (US$50) loan and had paid back 2,600 shillings in that time.
We had the weekend off, and I went with a smaller group on a safari (privately paid for by each of us). Yay elephant!
NBD, just me hanging out in Africa.

It was an amazing, humbling experience, and as I get pieces published about it, I’ll be sure to link to them.

In writing news: Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good, which I co-edited with H. L. Nelson, was nominated earlier in January for the This Is Horror Award (voting ends January 24—go vote now if you liked it!). That was really cool, and also surprising since I hadn’t been thinking of it as a horror anthology. We’d been marketing it as “dark fiction.” But once it was pointed out, I realized it’s totally horror—it contains slashers and zombies and people turning into animals and so forth—it’s just also genre-crossing. I’ll be surprised if it wins (the other anthology nominees are all really good too and probably better known) but it was lovely just to be nominated. ChooseWiselycover-print-front-1500

Goodness it’s a ghost town

Have only just realized it’s been nearly a year since I’ve updated. I’m very active at Facebook, and otherwise my time has been basically completely subsumed by my press Upper Rubber Boot Books (website; FB; Tumblr; Twitter) and hiking. I expect it’ll be awhile before I update again since I only think to do so when I get something published, and I haven’t been writing let alone submitting, because of URB keeping me so busy.

For fun, here are some photos from my life for the past year.


Hard-to-see Canada geese at
Old Stone Fort Archeological State Park, May 2014.


Me with Ben from Said the Whale
at Mercy Lounge, May 2014.


Author Roundtable at Hypericon, June 2014.


Me with my folks, in Eastern Pasage,
Nova Scotia, July 2014.


Baby kangaroo in my arms,
North Georgia Zoo, July 2014.


With my friend Anne in front
of the Step Falls (Little Duck River),
Old Stone Fort Archeological State Park,
November 2014.


White-tailed deer,
Percy Priest Lake,
Long Hunter State Park, November 2014.

Leaves on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway, November 2014.

November leaves on the
Shelby Bottoms Greenway.