James Rachlin has served as the President of Meristem Advisors LLC since April of 2018. Prior to that, he served as Managing Director of RBC Capital Markets, as Managing Director of BMO Capital Markets, and as Senior Vice President and Manager of Public Finance at Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson. In New York City, Rachlin served as Vice President of Prudential Securities and as Project Finance Associate at DJS/Inverness & Company. He earned his MBA in Finance from Wharton Business School, as well as a Master of Science in Engineering, Energy, and Environment from Princeton. He received his undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Brown. Rachlin has served on the Board of Old Town School of Folk Music for 11 years.
What attracts you to conservation?
I grew up my entire life birdwatching, and I’ve always been an outdoors person. When I was in my teen years, I did a lot of canoe tripping. I had to really learn to like it because I hated to carry the pack and I had to carry the canoe and I thought, “Why am I doing this?” But then I started to enjoy the absolute solitude of being miles away from anybody and to enjoy the physical exertion and the satisfaction I got from propelling myself through remarkable landscapes.
I still remember being in a tent one morning and hearing this tremendous racket, and I couldn’t imagine what it was. I thought, “I better see what this is,” and I unzipped my tent. And it was just a bird flying from a log to a branch, and from the branch to the log. And it was just that the surroundings were so quiet that the bird’s wings were like a racket to me.
With an experience like that, you begin to get an appreciation for what a pristine, preserved space is, and it makes it that much more precious to you. The importance of having it there, knowing it’s there, is what drives you to want to protect it.
What are your favorite places to get outside in our region?
We appreciate the lakefront enormously for birding. It’s the best birdwatching we’ve had, year-in and year-out. My family and I have traveled to Ohio and to Ontario to watch the migrations, and we always ask, “Why didn’t we just stay in our Chicago backyard because it’s ten times better?” You walk across the street, and it’s everything you could possibly want in migratory songbirds. We use the lakefront a ton and recognize what a remarkable resource that is.
Why is Openlands’ work important?
Connecting people to nature and each other, away from their phones, seems so hard these days. So many people never internalize the value of nature because they never venture into open spaces. So the opportunities Openlands provides to turn a kid on to nature can be life changing.