Four Decades of National Parks Experience for the Inland Northwest

June 22, 2021

By Caroline Woodwell, Conservancy volunteer, Life Coach & Writer

After 40 years in the National Park Service, Tom Bradley thought he would retire to Sheridan, Wyoming. Then he discovered Spokane. With easy access to the outdoors for him, and a city full of historic buildings for his wife, who teaches historic preservation, it seemed like the perfect place.

Bradley and then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel talk with a reporter at the opening of Gateway Arch National Park

There was just one more small question to answer: Tom wanted a place with a vigorous local land trust. He contacted our office and talked with the staff and board. In moments, he knew he had found a home. He and his wife bought a Craftsman bungalow and Tom has been volunteering with the Conservancy ever since.

Today he is bringing his range of experience in land stewardship to his new position as president of the board and active member of the land protection committee*. Beginning as a park ranger, Tom did law enforcement, rescue, public outreach, and education. When he realized that his daily tasks were reactive – “we would wait to see what would happen” – he became a manager so he could lead, instead.

Bradley and Land Protection Chair Lindsay Chutas discuss the geologic history of the Saltese complex in east Spokane Valley

From there, Tom did just about everything a person can do in the care and protection of public land. He was Superintendent of Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis. He was Deputy Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument where his son and daughter, who now live in Colorado, rode the ferry to school in New York City. He has worked for the National Park Service all over the country and in the Caribbean, with politicians, state and local governments, and national land conservation organizations. He has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars from public and private sources.

At the Conservancy, he says, “working with small communities is similar. It’s getting people interested in what you’re doing.” He notes that the Conservancy has grown and so, “when people see a thorny problem in land use, they say, ‘Let’s talk with INLC.’” Now, with a record of national land conservation behind him, Tom is eager to strengthen the land trust in his new hometown. As president of the Conservancy board, he says, “I want to build capacity. I think INLC is doing great work and we just need more.”

*Read more about the Conservancy’s all-star Land Protection Committee—professional biologists, geologists, hydrologists, educators, and marketers—on our website at