The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

by Char Miller, author of Where There’s Smoke; The Environmental Science, Public Policy, and Politics of Marijuana (Jan., 2018)

Fire and marijuana do not mix. That is especially true in California, where the season for wild land infernos and cannabis harvesting coincide. Cheryl Dumont knows all about the challenges that come with this combustible reality. When in October 2017 a set of wind-whipped fires roared across Napa and Sonoma counties, she was able to evacuate but could do nothing to save her well-tended crop. It went up in smoke, as did many other adjacent fields of tall, green-leafed plants ready for market.[1]

Dumont and her peers had anticipated a bumper harvest and a spike in demand. After all, in November 2016 Californians had voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, bringing weed out of the shadows. She and others were hoping to capitalize on that political turn, a dramatic shift in public opinion that is a crucial feature in my new anthology, Where There’s Smoke: The Environmental Science, Public Policy and Politics of Marijuana. The book is the first comprehensive and interdisciplinary analysis of the impact that marijuana has had on the physical and political landscape of the United States. Drawing on the insights of scientists, policymakers, and legal scholars, academics and activists, collectively it probes the complex relationship between marijuana, state and national politics, endangered species, law enforcement and social justice.

A cluster of chapters, for example, charts the tricky routes that Colorado (2012), Oregon (2014), and California (2016), along with the District of Columbia (2014), took to legalize marijuana. Each state’s approach was idiosyncratic, shaped in good measure by its differing demographics and histories. Each had to overcome a variety of social, economic, and political objections to secure the electorate’s approval. Each proposition or initiative therefore evolved over the years until proponents hit on the right combination of controls and regulations to build a large enough coalition willing to change the longstanding prohibition against the production and consumption of marijuana.

photo by Dorothy Joseph

Little about this dynamic has been straightforward. It becomes even more complicated when set within the broader context of America’s war on the drugs. That Nixon Era policy is critical to the arguments of other chapters in Where There’s Smoke, which together reveal the striking degree to which national anti-pot policies harmed the very states that recently made marijuana legal. California, for example, which today produces upwards of 80 percent of the national marijuana crop, experienced its first boom in illegal growing as a result of the 1960s counterculture; farmers in what became known as the Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties), grew grass for consumption in nearby Bay Area. The emerging industry might have stayed relatively small and stable had not President Nixon in June 1971 launched a crackdown on drug production south of the US border. This intervention actually brought the war home, because it incentivized cartels to shift their operations from Mexico and South America to California. They targeted national and state forests, as well as tribal lands, sites that proved to be the perfect environment for their trespass grows. Hard to reach, difficult to surveille, and almost impossible to disrupt, these illegal plantations blossomed in number and size across the next four decades. The black-market economy in the Golden State generated billions of dollars in illicit revenue.

To capture some portion of these ill-gotten gains is one reason why Californians (and voters across the country) have pushed to legalize marijuana, and then regulate and tax its production. There has also been an important environmental driver to these marijuana-reform proposals. As a number of the contributors to Where There’s Smoke point out, marijuana plantations—whether legal or not—can have some decidedly deleterious impacts on water quantity and quality, soil productivity, wilderness and biodiversity. Wildlife ecologists identify the rare and endangered species, in particular the Pacific fisher, whose life chances are undercut by growers’ indiscriminate use of rodenticides and other poisons. Tribal forest managers calculate the manifold costs that their people pay because of trespass grows on their homelands; their woods and waters are not safe. Environmental sociologists, law enforcement officers, and other researchers make the same case: the marijuana industry can be a destructive force, a very dirty business.

How clean it up? How restore damaged watersheds, canyons, and hillsides? There is no easy solution, as I note in the introduction to Where There’s Smoke. For some states, a political response, such as legalizing recreational use, might allow for stronger oversight of how and where marijuana is grown. California’s 2016 proposition took this concept one step further, setting aside a portion of the tax revenues the state would secure from the sale of legal marijuana for the regeneration of battered public lands. Yet legalization can only do so much, one public-land manager avers in the book: “Whatever happens [with legalization], we’ve got a job to do. So legalization isn’t a question for us. You’re not allowed to grow corn or potatoes in national parks, so we would go after those grows too.” Other observers are skeptical that legalization will undercut the drug cartels’ cash-cow business model to such an extent that they would be forced to uproot from California (or the other states that have or are considering legalization).

This much is clear. With eight states and the District of Columbia having legalized recreational use, and a total of 29 states (and D.C.) having sanctioned the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the politics of marijuana have shifted radically in a relatively short time. The federal government, however, has not yet joined the bandwagon. To date, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 substance, like heroin. Although the Obama administration tacitly acknowledged individual state’s rights to manage, regulate, and enforce laws relative to marijuana, the Trump administration has reversed that more relaxed approach.

This has left pot farmers such as Cheryl Dumont in limbo: federal banking regulations, in line with federal drug laws, do not allow marijuana growers to deposit their profits in federally regulated financial institutions. This has forced growers to stash their money wherever they think is safe. Dumont, for one, buried her stash–$40,000 worth of gold and silver coin—in a plastic box, two feet underground. She had to leave it behind when the wall of flames swept toward her property, an intense wildfire that would incinerate her home and crops. It also melted her cache.

Char Miller is the W. M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College and the author and editor of many books on environmental history and public lands, including, as author, Not So Golden State: Sustainability vs. the California Dream; America’s Great National Forests, Wildernesses, and Grasslands (with photographer Tim Palmer); and Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot. He also edited American Forests: Nature, Culture, and Politics, published by Kansas.

[1] Joe Mozingo, “Wildfires devastate California’s pot farmers, who must build without banks and insurance,” Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2017, access:

UPK’s Gordon Sander Knighted by Finland

Provided/Annina Aalto

Gordon Sander, author of, The Hundred Day Winter War; Finland’s Gallant Stand Against the Soviet Army, received Finland’s Order of the Lion in a ceremony Oct. 12 at the Finnish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. The medal of the Knight of the Order of the Lion, bestowed by Sauli Niinistö, president of the Republic of Finland, was presented to Sander by the Finnish embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Antti Vänskä. Sander has written two books and hundreds of articles about Finland’s military history.



“I was motivated to write The Hundred Day Winter War, because I wanted to write a book about the Finnish characteristic which I most admire: sisu, which roughly translates to toughness,” Sander explains. “The story of the Winter War is essentially the story of sisu. I had written many articles about Finland before, and it was time to write a book about this little known country, and the war was the perfect subject, as well as one which I knew would interest foreign audiences. I also have been fascinated with the war ever since my first visit to Finland all the way back in 1977. Most importantly, perhaps, there was not a good one volume history of the war which covered it from both the Finnish and Russian side, as well as both the diplomatic and military points of view.”

During his research while writing The Hundred Day Winter War, Sander’s discovered the war was the first to be a battle of weapons and words.

“The most significant lesson I learned from my research, I suppose, is that the Winter War was, because of the attention it was given in the foreign press, and the sheer number of correspondents who descended on Finland to cover it, the first information war, insofar as it was the first war where at least one of the belligerents, Finland, recognized the importance of dealing with the media–including both welcoming it and, censoring it, i.e., shaping the media’s coverage of the conflict–which in turn influenced how it was perceived by other governments, and affected their willingness or unwillingness to provide aid to the Finns as the British and the French did, and the US did–to a degree.”

Sander’s experience in Finland writing The Hundred Day Winter War afforded him the opportunity to interview veterans of the war, visit battle sites and use his work to honor Finland’s victory.

 “All of the interviews I did with the aging veterans, some of whom died before the book was actually published, were moving experiences,” Sander explains. “From the interview I conducted with the member of the Lotta Svard (women’s auxiliary), which played a crucial role in the home front, to the colonel who commanded some of the men who fought on the Mannerheim Line. And then of course there was my own visit to the former Mannerheim Line, the main defensive line, near Viipuri, looking much as it did eight decades ago. Finally, and perhaps most memorably, there was the reading from the book I did at the remarkable monument at Suomussalmi, the site of the Finns’ greatest victory in the snow to a silent, appreciative group of one hundred Finns from the area.”

Sander is currently living in Daugavpils, Latvia, working on assignment from Politico. He has written for more than 20 publications including The New York Times, Financial Times of London, The Christian Science Monitor and the International Herald Tribune.

“Obviously the knighthood is one of the greatest honors of my career,” Sander says. “As far as I know I am only the American writer or journalist who has ever won it. Beyond that it validates my decision to devote half of my career to helping put Finland on the map.”

Producing Books that Matter; University Press Week, 2017

Admittedly, we like to think we’re unique. But, according to UPK Managing Editor Kelly Chrisman Jacques, the University Press of Kansas is different than many university presses (perhaps, especially, those that are larger).

“I didn’t realize how different our process is compared to the majority of other university presses, until I went to several AAUP meetings and talked with colleagues,” explains Managing Editor Kelly Chrisman Jacques. “Our production department is a cross-section of editing and design. Karl, our Art Director, designs all the book covers, ads, and marketing material. The manuscript and production team handles the editing and proofreading, and also the interior design of nearly all of our titles.”

Chrisman Jacques and her department, which includes Production Editor Larisa Martin and Production Assistant Colin Tripp, guide a manuscript from copy-editing to books in warehouse. All books are copy-edited and proofread by freelancers (“it’s so much more efficient for our staff size,” Chrisman Jacques explains), but trim, interior design, and layout are handled by her staff.

“We have a catalog of about 30 book layouts that are specific to our press,” she says. “When we receive a manuscript from the editorial department we have to ask how to best present the work. Some of our authors have established their work to a degree that they know what layout and typefaces we will use. Most of the time we work to make the layout the most efficient and attractive for the topic.”

While the staff at UPK is small and departments collaborate on projects, production staff and editors don’t cross lines often. Editor in Chief Joyce Harrison says her team of acquisition editors know how important it is to trust the production team.

It’s very important, because they know their side of the business so well,” Harrison says. “That allows us to know what we can and can’t promise authors, especially when it comes to schedules. Kelly’s team also works closely with the marketing department. So we all work together to produce outstanding books, but we have standards and schedules and plans that have to be followed.”

Chrisman Jacques and Harrison agree that the wild card in production isn’t design or typeface or a printing schedule… it’s authors.

“It’s critical for my team to have open and honest dialogue with the editors in order to keep authors on track,” Chrisman Jacques says. “We know that the editors will have our back if we have any issues with an author disagreeing with a copy edit or a layout choice. It’s nice to hear from an author who spoke to their editor and heard that, in fact, my team knows what we’re doing and have the author and the book’s best interest at heart.”

Authors at National Press Club Book Fair

A pair of UPK authors will be featured presenters at the National Press Club’s 2017 Book Fair & Authors’ Night on November 10 in Washington D.C.

Charles Calhoun will be signing copies of his critically acclaimed The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant and Timothy LaPira will speaking with visitors about Revolving Door Lobbying, the book he co-wrote with Herschel F. Thomas III.

The books are among the nearly 90 titles selected by Politics & Prose, the District’s premier independent bookstore as the best of political publishing. The Capitol region’s premiere holiday book event is celebrating its 40th year! The National Press Club Journalism Institute is once again partnering with landmark local book seller Politics & Prose for a night of pols, pundits and prose.

Authors will be on hand to talk to their fans and sign books at this most exciting literary event of the season. Patrons can browse for books at the Club’s headquarters from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for NPC and Politics & Prose members; $10 public. Tickets will also be sold online and at the door.

The Book Fair is a fundraiser for The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. The event helps the Institute’s programming and mission, which includes a competitive scholarship program with a focus on promoting diversity among the next generation of journalists, and training programs focusing on high standards, ethical conduct and best practices in a rapidly changing media environment.

CSPAN plans to feature books and authors on their programming.