Hon. J. Angus MacLean Natural Areas Award Presented

The Honourable J. Angus MacLean was an important Islander, politician, premier, naturalist, forester, sheep-raiser and blueberry grower. Angus MacLean left a huge legacy of caring for the land and for the Island.  The MacLean Natural Areas Award is presented annually by Island Nature Trust to honour a group, individual, or agency that has made a significant contribution to the protection of natural areas in Prince Edward Island.  The winner is selected by the Awards Committee from those nominated.

This year, the committee awards this important recognition to Randy Dibblee of St. Catherines. Gerald MacDougall submitted the nomination.

Randy Dibblee began his career as the Waterfowl and Fur Biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Division in 1980. He spent many hours digging out beaver dams that were flooding the rail lines, conducted waterfowl surveys and many other wildlife management activities.  He was a manager that loved working in the field.  He recognized the importance of hunting and trapping and demonstrated real leadership in the trapping and hunting communities on Prince Edward Island although his career covers many admirable aspects of wildlife management but this nomination will only focus on wetland protection.

In the 1980’s Randy spearheaded the mapping of wetlands with scores based on the wildlife values for Prince Edward Island. He was a champion in government for wetland protection and in 1988 with the introduction of a new “Environmental Protection Act”, wetland protection became part of this new legislation.  He had been instrumental in promoting wetland protection based on the work he had done and in defining it in legislation.

In the early 1990’s, applications for watercourse and wetland permits would pass through the “Watercourse Wetland Alteration Committee” and Randy would always have lots of comments about any negative implications to work around or in wetlands. There were some occasions where his comments would fall on “deaf ears” and he was not successful in protecting a wetland.  Although he was not happy about it, Randy realized for political reasons or for the good of the general public a permit might be issued to destroy a wetland. There was also a significant loss of wetlands from illegal activity at that time.  Randy went to work with others to develop a policy that would allow a specific monetary compensation for lost wetlands.  For every acre lost the proponent (or the person who caused the illegal activity) would have to pay the cost of constructing three acres.  A three to one ratio would discourage the destruction of wetlands and help with non-profit organizations, like for example, Ducks Unlimited to build new wetland and expand existing ones.  Randy was also insistent and successful in that the wetland policy, only recognize that the legal destruction of a wetland must be truly in the public interest.

In the late 1990s Investigation and Enforcement was still having trouble with people infilling, what they liked to refer to as “swamps”. Randy worked with the enforcement team, becoming an expert witness for court cases.  He also was the person in the department that everyone turned to in order to delineate a wetland. It was tough to know exactly where they started as there is a transition zone for most.  In order to better protect these zones Randy was instrumental in promoting and later establishing regulated setbacks to ensure greater protection.  Randy was key in getting many successful prosecutions and guilty pleas under the Environmental Protection Act by the conservation officers.  He helped draft government orders to ensure compensation was paid.

In 2006 Randy’s duties expanded. He continued to work at protecting wetlands, digitizing wetland maps of PEI. Randy also encouraged others in the Department to take wetland identification courses in order to better do their job.  Every once in a while a move to erode legislation would come up and Randy was on the front line, diligently working to support the protection of wetlands.  He stayed on with government long after he could have retired because of that commitment

This was not Randy’s job – it was his passion! He went far beyond the walls of his office and upset many people along the way. He took risks as he chose to do a job with this passion and commitment.  Many were proud to have worked with Randy Dibblee over their careers in government and can say they know of no person who has done as much to protect the wetlands on Prince Edward Island as him.

Our sincere congratulations are extended to Randy as the 2018 winner of the Honourable J. Angus MacLean Natural Areas Award.