Mike Langegger has been a member of the Kitimat Rod & Gun Association for as long as he can remember.
“Through the family, I’ve just always been involved with the Rod & Gun,” he said, now on the Board of Directors all these years later.
Langegger’s father was a member of the club when it was first established in the early 1950s, and Langegger grew up in Kitimat hunting, fishing, and with a passion for conservation and the great outdoors.
“[I] care about fish habitat, wildlife, the ecosystem, and it’s given a lot to us as a community, to my family, and it’s just giving back to that.”
Langegger said they do a lot of conservation work in and around Kitimat, both by themselves and with other local and regional stakeholders, such as the District of Kitimat and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
“We completed a project a year or two ago. We planted about 5,000 conifer trees along Duck Creek.”
The Rod & Gun also does the annual clean-up on Sumgás Creek, which runs through the town. Langegger said they just try to stay engaged in conservation processes, development, and consulting with the government on fish and wildlife regulations for the area.
“It’s just giving back to something that’s important to myself and to our members and my family and really hoping that, you know, trying to ensure it’s safe for future generations,” he said. “And I think that’s something where the public need to really step up if we want to see fish, wildlife, and intact ecosystems in place for those generations coming.”
Langegger said a current issue he and others are seeing is the expanding industry, especially in and around Kitimat, and how that is affecting and will continue to affect fish and wildlife habitat.
“Currently, we’re concerned at a local level with how industry is progressing. We see development expanding, or potentially expanding, outside the industrial zone that’s served this community for over 60 years,” he said. “We see proponents currently, you know, looking at tenures for investigative permits to potentially expand industrialization to the north, areas that are currently not zoned for industry. So we’re challenging that.”
Langegger said they have made presentations to mayor and council, responded to applications from incoming and local industries, among other things, as well.
“And, you know, we’re hoping to protect an area within our community that’s important from a recreation perspective, a social perspective, and also critically important from a fisheries, wildlife, and public access perspective,” he added.
Almost two decades ago, Langegger got involved with the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) through the contact between them and the Rod & Gun. He made his way up into the regional vice president position, then the regional president position, and stayed in each for two terms.
From there, he was asked to put his name forward to be on the provincial board of directors. He was elected into the position and is currently in his third term.
Langegger said his dad’s involvement with the Rod & Gun and conservation definitely played a key role in his passion for it.
“[My dad] was an active outdoors person. That’s probably why I’m an active outdoors person. It’s a big part of our lives, it’s, again, if you’re not a hunter, angler, outdoors enthusiast, people may not understand, but it is of social significance,” he said.
“I lost my dad in 2016 and you kind of realize how important those opportunities we have in our natural environment, and how we connect with family and friends and how those relationships are fostered and nurtured through those opportunities,” Langegger added. “So that’s the key reason also why I do what I do, is to keep that going forward.”
Langegger has two children, a 22-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son, and when they were growing up, he always tried to make sure to instill the same values in them that his dad instilled in him.
“Both my children — when they were young — were always an active part of hiking and camping, fishing and hunting. They grew up with moose meat on the table and salmon in canning jars, and then, you know, basically fruit off the land,” he said. “They understand conservation, that’s how I tried to bring them up, being respectful of nature and the environment.”
Langegger said they were always an outdoorsy family and he was always very happy his children seemed to be just as fond of conservationism and the outdoors as he was.
“They grew up around that like I did. I really try to get them to connect with the environment and not so much these devices, right. As my kids grew up, I was quite proud that they were the ones out running in the snow with snowsuits and doing things like that, and not so tied to video games and that, which, to me is important and we need to see, or at least try to get children to connect with nature again. I think it’s important moving forward that they have that connection.”
Earlier this year, Langegger won the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement from the BCWF for his volunteering and leadership in fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation.
“I don’t do it for any, you know, there’s no monetary value, but certainly when you see your peers recognizing the work you do and, you know, obviously respect that work, that’s, I guess, heartfelt, if that makes any sense?”
Langegger said his children and all future generations are always in his thoughts when he’s doing conservation work, because he believes it’s important to pass that knowledge and connection with nature down through the coming generations.
“I think if you don’t connect with nature, you know, as we move on, it’s the next generation that takes over for us and if they don’t have that connection, like my father instilled into me and that I try to instill into [my children], then who’s going to defend it? Who’s going to stand for it? Who’s going to see the values and the importance of it?”
Langegger recently came back from a hunting trip with his son, his friend, and his friend’s son, which is something he tries to do often to continue the discussions of conservation and how to consume wildlife in a conservation-based, renewable manner, something he added is a common practice in northern communities.
“My friend’s son got a moose. We divide that up, share the bounties of that harvest,” he said. “But again, it’s something I grew up in, it’s how I raise my kids and it’s really a lifestyle and a way of life. And, you know, northern communities like Kitimat, and surrounding communities, that’s fairly common, that lifestyle and people getting out and hunting and fishing and the sustenance component it provides, and those social benefits.”
Langegger said that, for those who would like to know more or get involved with conservation, the best way to do that is to become an active member of local outdoor-related groups, such as hunting, fishing, hiking, or naturalist groups.
“If you have an appreciation for important habitats and ecosystems and those values that are abundant, regardless of how you’re using them, whether you’re consumptive or non-consumptive, I think it’s important for people to engage.”
He said that, going forward, he hopes to continue his work in conservation and hopes the Kitimat community will take a look at the bigger picture and get involved, as well.
“We have proponents coming in, potentially looking at rezoning areas that are not industrial zoned, and if we’re not cautious, we’re going to see not just areas that are industrial zoned right now but areas outside that, if they get industrial zoned, engulfed by that,” Langegger said. “Right now, within our community, we’re at a crossroads, and I think it’s very important for citizens and our local government to really take a step back and ensure that the decisions made today are wise and, you know, meet the interests of the community in the long term.”