How were you introduced to outdoor recreation?
My early toys were sticks, rocks, and dirt. It was rather easy to be outside considering that for a portion of my youth we lived in a two-story log and chink cabin with no electricity or interior plumbing in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Early experiences involved roaming the woods and rural roads via two wheels and two legs and then skinny dipping in ponds and rivers for cool relief.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve found that I have the problem of enjoying as many different activities as possible, while constantly pursuing new landscapes and terrain. Even though percentage wise I am mostly on trails and in the woods via mountain biking, running, or hiking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter, I regularly paddle and SUP, swim, rock climb, camp, and engage in other activities and sports.
What do Colorado’s public lands mean to you?
Wilderness is my church – it is where I find my center, euphoria, and inspiration. Public Lands are a great portion of such accessible wilderness and one of the most valuable resources to me, including clean water, land, air, and functioning ecosystems. Public Lands provide recreation, health, activities, clean environment, and access locations no matter one’s economic background or abilities. I believe that such lands should take into account all interests of access by others and find a balance that allows the diversity of activities, but also sustainably manages and conserves the resources for such continued use.
By protecting public lands, we protect our future generations’ rights to health and similar experiences that we and our prior folk have enjoyed – whether that be seeing a moose in the wilderness or having clean water to drink. Further, public lands provide a huge economic benefit to the communities geographically located around them and much of the outdoor recreation and gear industry business and economy. These are sustainable economics that will continue to exist and grow as long as the locations for use exist.
Tell us about an outdoor experience that had an impact on your professional life or personal outlook.
I had very little winter ski experience growing up in the Southeast and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that some high school surfers, sponsored by the surf shop I worked at in San Diego, took me up to the mountains for a day of impromptu snowboard lessons. I quickly fell in love with it and the opportunity to experience the scope of winter wonderland forest terrain in a similar way to my warm weather activities. Soon after this, I started law school in San Diego and my best law school friends were those that had similar interests, and remain strong relationships to this day because of our shared passion for those activities.
Snowboarding also was a strong connection when I met my wife, who was a skier originally from Colorado, and it fostered many trips and shared enjoyment together. Realizing that movement in the outdoors was my happy place and through my many outdoor recreation and gear experiences that I had a forward understanding of the physics of and gear involved in these many activities, I founded Merithew Law with the belief that this background would allow me to provide better representation and services to businesses in the outdoor recreation industry than general practice firms.
Why is now an important time to speak up as a member of the business community?
Through my studies in environmental policy and law, I found myself frustrated with the traditional legal “response” or “reactionary” system required to protect and conserve the outdoors and natural resources. Through work as a professional, I was drawn to the excitement of business enterprises and branding and saw that businesses (through money, lobbying, and economic impact) could actually affect this environmental change at the forefront instead of fighting from behind, similar to my professional experience transitioning commercial litigation to general counsel services. I think it has always been important for businesses to step up with corporate social responsibility, but it is something less done and recognized in our Country until recently. As a business owner myself, I have worked hard to get to a point where I can pursue my beliefs and passions in causes and social responsibility in addition to making a living. In other words, I’ve gotten involved as soon as I can, which required me to create a business doing what I believed in and working with those whom I desired, and I believe that it is always an important time for such action.
How does showing leadership on values you care about support the success of your business/brand?
There is not necessarily a direct correlation yet, but I have found that if you pursue your passion and connect with those who share similar values, that your days are more rewarding and your structure and network then provide mutual support in different ways. I think it is important for all businesses to realize and take into account the externality costs that they put on society, whether intended or not.
Part of running a business should be acknowledging responsibility and management back to society and/or the industry within which you work. Any business should look for involvement opportunities to better one’s community or beliefs, whether it be volunteering, donating, or other similar features with an idea that by working together we can achieve great things and improve the quality of many lives.
What exciting updates would you like to share?
2017 was an amazing year for us – I brought on a partner and we started a new Colorado branch of operations after being located in Asheville by myself for the prior three years. In conjunction with opening a western states branch in Colorado (we are licensed in Colorado, California and North Carolina and work with clients around the Country and World), we also became COBA and 1% for the Planet Members. We wanted to be active in and support matters in which we believe and to be involved with a network of shared value entrepreneurs and businesses.
With trade show transitions in the outdoor recreation industry, we look forward to more involvement through access and opportunities related to those shows and surrounding events (and play hopefully). We are actively working on going from becoming members to having active involvement with these organizations and fellow members while celebrating the public lands by getting out and recreating on them!