provided to The Santiva Chronicle
A much-anticipated feature of the Committee of the Islands’ annual meeting is the announcement of the organization’s Citizen of the Year. On March 17, that honor went to Dr. John McCabe for his strong commitment to conservation and protection of wildlife on Sanibel and Captiva.
President Larry Schopp presented Dr. McCabe with an etched-glass vase by artist Luc Century; and Barbara Joy Cooley, a longtime board member and Chair of the Environment Committee, offered an overview of McCabe’s accomplishments.
Soon after McCabe and his wife moved to Sanibel 20 years ago, McCabe joined the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society as a volunteer and friend, said Cooley. His creative leadership became increasingly essential as funding and staffing for the Wildlife Refuge decreased and visitorship rose dramatically.
“As a retired physician, John has taken his talent of listening and processing of information into the realm of conservation,” Cooley said. “He is that quiet leader who finds ways to get people to work together toward a common goal of protecting our natural resources…. His quiet demeanor, passion for the mission, patience, and persistence while working toward the end goal are what have made John so effective for the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Refuge complex in all areas, but in particular, in land acquisition and restoration.”
Working with private landowners and leaders at every level of government, McCabe was the driving force behind the acquisition of the Woodring Homestead land, as well as the 8.5-acre Wulfert I and 68-acre Wulfert Bayous land now called the Lee Anne Tauck Conservation Tract. Through McCabe’s leadership and philanthropic support, last month the DDWS successfully concluded an effort to protect a Tarpon Bay Road property that contains a six-acre lake running directly into the Tarpon Bay Estuary part of the Refuge. He has also worked to achieve the donation of nine acres of near-beach property that connects to Refuge land.
The value of the many properties now protected from development is more than $20 million. “Much of this was a combination of private philanthropic support raised by the DDWS, leveraging that support to attain Lee County Conservation 20/20 funds, working with city leaders, and collaborating with the USFWS to manage the land as a part of the refuge,” Cooley said. “In addition, John and the DDWS worked with the Refuge to receive a $5.2 million grant through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation for restoration of the bird rookery in the Lee Anne Tauck Tract.”
Cooley concluded, “All of this land protected under John’s leadership was sensitive wildlife habitat which could have been developed and is now preserved and protected through the Refuge, Lee County 20/20, and the Ding Darling Wildlife Society. Were it not for John McCabe and his passion for conservation and land preservation, this island would be a different place.”