RIVER HEBERT, N.S. - The wetlands and waterfowl near Keith McAloney’s River Hebert home were like family to him.
The late biologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service was honoured Thursday when the McIver Marsh in Strathcona, near the village of River Hebert in Cumberland County, was dedicated in his honour.
“He’d be so happy and honoured to see this,” his wife, Sandy, said following the ceremony in which a stone monument was unveiled. “It’s awesome to see this. He’d be very pleased. For me it’s so overwhelming and heart-warming to know that he was so highly thought of. It’s just amazing. We know who Keith was, but we had no idea the people that he touched.”
McAloney passed away in October 2016 at age 68.
Born on the family homestead in River Hebert, it was there that he first explored the great outdoors and became devoted to waterfowl and wildlife conservation.
After earning both a bachelor and master of science at Mount Allison and Acadia universities, where he also earned his love of eider ducks, he spent his career working between DUC and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Tom Duffy, manager of provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited in Atlantic Canada, said the plan to honour McAloney started late last year and involved both organizations.
“About a year ago a few of us got together to begin planning this,” Duffy said. “We felt we had to have a more permanent acknowledgement of the achievements he made during his career.”
Duffy said the McIver Marsh was chosen for the monument because it’s just across the river from the McAloney home and it’s where he developed his passion for wetlands and waterfowl.
“This is where Keith grew up, it was his backyard,” McAloney said. “The marsh is an area he worked on with DU to restore. It’s a place where he hunted, trapped and spent many quality hours with family and friends.”
Dr. Al Hanson of the Canadian Wildlife Service said McAloney was respected across North America for his strategic thinking and participation in various international ventures.
“A lot of the work he did still affects the work we do today,” Hanson said. “This place is a testament to his accomplishments and his success. It’s a physical reminder of his legacy. He made a lot of contributions to wetlands and waterfowl conservation in the region, but he also made a lot of friends along the way.
Hanson said McAloney was a big supporter of both the Canadian Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited Canada and he believes that really fostered a great a level of cooperation between both agencies that still exists today.
Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey said it's important to remember the contributions by people like McAloney.
"It's important that we do this because our natural spaces, wildlife and protected spaces are an important part of our culture and heritage," Casey said. "I was in Tatamagouche yesterday where the Nature Conservancy of Canada took over a piece of land in perpetuity to protect if for future generations. I think these two events go together because it's a sign we value our natural areas and wildlife."
First hired as a conservation biologist with Ducks Unlimited in Amherst, he later became coordinator of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Sackville, N.B., before returning to DUC as manager of conservation programs, and finally finishing his career as head of the Migratory Game Bird Management Unit with CWS.
McAloney was considered an exceptional biologist, and a mentor to budding scientists. He was also integral to the implementation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, not just in Canada, but across the continent. And he was also pivotal in the establishment of the Sea Duck Joint Venture and the Black Duck Joint Venture, in addition to the EHJV.