03 Mar

Museum Honor for Cheney Doesn’t Fly

Tribute ignores dismal environmental record


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The idea of former Vice President Dick Cheney being honored by a fishing organization is ridiculous. It’s like honoring former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown for his great work after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. No, it would be dumber than that.

And yet that’s what the American Museum of Fly Fishing had planned to do at a fund-raising dinner March 5 at the New York Angler’s Club: Honor a man who, along with former President George W. Bush, did more to set back protection for America’s land, air and waters — and trout — than any previous administration.

At least that was the plan until anglers spoke up.

On Tuesday, a museum spokesperson said the March 5 tribute to Cheney had been postponed until an undetermined date this fall. For “undetermined,” I read that as “until we’re able to announce that we and Cheney couldn’t coordinate our schedules, so we’ll just let this atrocity sink back into the muck from whence it came.”

After the AMFF’s plan to honor Cheney was exposed by conservation editor Ted Williams of “Fly Rod & Reel Magazine,” the museum sent out a news release to try to appease the thousands of anglers who expressed outrage over the idea.

The letter said in part, “Vice President Cheney is a significant historical figure in this country and the world and an avid lifelong fly fisherman. The museum is a nonpolitical institution that seeks to enhance its collections and richly preserve fly-fishing artifacts, including those used by major figures in our own country’s history, as we have done for decades.

“We hope this letter assists in expressing our reasons for honoring the vice president and accepting his fly-fishing artifacts into the museum as part of its permanent collection.”

Maybe the AMFF thought that having Cheney as its honoree would bring out a lot of rich fly-fishing dilettantes like him to drop some bucks in its coffers.

But the thought of Cheney being lauded by the AMFF, whose existence depends on preserving the environment where trout live, was a joke. He played a key role in an administration that valued financial benefit over environmental protection ofnot just trout streams but all our rivers, lakes, wildlands and ocean shores.

I know there are plenty of Cheney supporters out there. When Cheney accidentally shot a hunting partner, and I wrote a column about it to point out the hazards of being careless with a firearm and violating a basic tenet of hunting safety, I got dozens of angry e-mails and phone calls. Many blamed the other hunter for walking up behind the vice president without letting Cheney know he was there.

Outdoors people tend to lean to the right of the political spectrum, in large part because they worry so much about keeping their gun ownership rights. (The McGlynn: I am an outdoors person and I, and many more I know, do not lean to the right and, yes, we believe in getting guns off the street. As for myself I am way to the left.)  But they also spend much of their lives dreaming about and visiting the wonderful lands and waters with which this country is blessed.

Watching so many of those places opened to development or pollution puzzled and disgusted a lot of outdoors people who once supported the Bush administration policies.

For people who know what it takes to sustain wild trout, and how valuable they are to the soul, the decision to scrub the AMFF dinner is the right one.

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