Saluting The General

Saluting The General

As you will see in our Letters column, we were recently contacted by a reader-Mr. David Hanna, of Rapid City, South Dakota-who wanted to know why FR&R

  • By: Paul Guernsey
As you will see in our Letters column, we were recently contacted by a reader-Mr. David Hanna, of Rapid City, South Dakota-who wanted to know why FR&R takes a "liberally biased stance on coldwater conservation issues." I replied to Mr. Hanna's e-mail, he answered back, and we had quite a little correspondence going on for a couple of days. As is par for the course in this sort of exchange, I don't think either of us convinced the other of anything.

Now, I get my share of cranky letters and e-mails, and I've learned to take them in stride. But I have to tell you that I almost felt disheartened to discover that Mr. Hanna was not a crank at all. I found him to be an intelligent, friendly, reasonable man who had what he considered to be a legitimate quibble with a magazine that he said he otherwise thoroughly enjoyed.

Why disheartened? Well, it's easy to laugh off a letter or an e-mail from someone who obviously has an ax to grind, or who clearly dislikes the magazine and is seizing the opportunity to take a cheap shot.

But if a thoughtful reader like Mr. Hanna can view a strong stand on conservation as evidence of "liberal bias," then there are probably quite a few more otherwise-contented conservative readers who see environmental conservation as an inseparable part of an entire package of liberal issues they'd rather not be associated with. I'd much rather see anglers of all political viewpoints united in the common cause of preserving fish and fish habitat.

In our politically polarized society, so effectively-though in large part falsely-has environmental conservation been connected to liberalism that many conservative sportsmen and -women who actually benefit from environmental advocacy would sooner share a hot tub with Michael Moore than declare themselves to be environmentalists. In fact, I've talked to more than one angler who spoke disparagingly of "the environmentalists," and then in almost the next breath boasted of being a proud member of Trout Unlimited-which is primarily an environmental organization.

Then there are the less well-meaning folks who are always eager to connect conservation with things even more sinister than mere liberalism. I'm thinking, specifically, of a particular Radio Bigmouth who makes claims on his show that (and I'm paraphrasing here, but the words are pretty close) "Environmentalism is just a front for the worldwide Socialist agenda."

Huh?

You may be happy to learn, however, that I didn't stay disheartened for long. That's because I reread Stephen Camelio's "Who Fly-Fishes?" interview with Norman Schwarzkopf, which appears in this issue.

As you are undoubtedly aware, this retired general has enough military credentials-and enough medals, including three Purple Hearts-to make even the most leathery conservative blush with admiration. Yet (and it makes me angry that I feel compelled to say "yet") he's also an ardent and outspoken environmental conservationist.

For instance, he serves on the President's Conservation Council for The Nature Conservancy-arguably the world's most effective environmental organization. He's also a proponent of preserving Alaska's wilderness, and he's the national spokesman for the Grizzly Bear Recovery&Wildlife/Wildlands Stewardship Campaign.

As for his personal politics, Schwarzkopf's office tells us that he is not registered as either a Democrat or a Republican. Beyond that, I know nothing about his political views.

I think, though, that it would be an interesting experiment for someone to go up to him and call him a "liberal."

That someone is not going to be me.

And if I knew for sure that somebody was planning to call the general a "Socialist" to his face because of his views on conservation-somebody like, say, one of those ultra-right-wing Radio Bigmouths-I'd buy a ringside seat.

And my money would be on the general.