Each contributor to The Nature Conservancy has a story about why they give back to nature—to leave a legacy, to support our mission, to help protect our world.
For Tennessee resident Nick Meurrier, it’s about realizing that protecting nature is good for everybody.
Read his story below and then share your own story to inspire others as you have inspired us!
Nick Meurrier’s connection to nature goes back to his childhood. Now a Memphis resident, he grew up in eastern Arkansas, and from the age of eight his father would take him out from time to time to go hunting.
At least Nick thought they were hunting.
“I’m not so sure now,” he said with a chuckle. “We never shot anything. But those times meant so much to me. My dad would take me out around the St. Francis River. We would get out early in the woods, start a campfire, have our guns with us and we’d watch lots of animals. We would walk and talk in the woods. I now think those trips were really more about learning gun safety than hunting. But I treasure those memories. Those were some of my favorite times in nature.”
Today Nick still feels a deep connection to nature. Nick and his wife, Rachael, married last May. When they did, they made a pledge to each other to visit every national park in the United States together because they both value nature and want to explore it together. So far, they’ve visited four: Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. They visited the last two on their honeymoon.
Nick is hard-pressed to name a favorite place in nature, though he is partial to the wide-open landscapes of the West. But he is quick to name two favorite experiences in nature. One took place when he did a solo drive cross-country to Yosemite. “I camped out in Tuolumne Valley, and at night I went out walking by the Tuolumne River, experiencing the quiet beauty of this meadow. It was very dark because man-made lights are so far away. You could see so many stars. It was one of the most magical nights I’ve ever had.”
Another of those magical nights took place with Rachael on their honeymoon. They had arrived at Yellowstone early in the season before the park had fully opened. Some access roads were still closed. “One night we got sort of trapped in the park for a little while as we were trying to drive out. But it was beautiful. No other cars were on the road. It was 12:30 at night and really dark, and the mountains and the stars felt like they were all for us. We eventually found a road out, and we didn’t mind the extra driving at all.”
Nick gives to The Nature Conservancy because he wants to do his part to ensure nature’s ongoing protection. “I feel like if you care about something, you have to be an active participant,” he said. “You can give of your time or you can give your money, but you should be involved. So I put my dollars where my thoughts are.”
Asked what else he would like to share with others about protecting nature, Nick had a ready answer. “I discuss this with my friends sometimes: the false notion that everything around the environment is an either/or proposition. Either we can drill for oil, or we can’t get any access to it at all. If we lock up this land, then productivity will plummet. Well, I disagree. I tell them it’s exactly the opposite. Protection of nature is good for all of us. Well-managed forestry programs have a higher output of lumber and at the same time less harmful impact on those forests. In the same way, when you create a park, you bring tourism.
“Protecting nature is not a zero-sum game. When you protect a special place, you aren’t taking it away from anyone else or walling it off. You are actually tearing down the wall so that everyone can enjoy it. Without defenders like The Nature Conservancy, you don’t get to keep these natural treasures. It’s true that there’s a price you pay up-front in dollars to protect nature. But if you don’t pay those up-front costs and if you lose nature in an area, no amount of money will bring it back. That’s why I’m happy to give.”