By Nick Simonson
From his earliest days fishing on his grandparents’ dock in Minnesota, to the efforts he recalls from college driving two hours just to find a place to hunt outside of Denver, Colo., to his work in energizing sportsmen in the Montana Wildlife Federation affiliate clubs, John Bradley, the newly-hired North Dakota Wildlife Federation (NDWF) Executive Director has combined his passion, dedication and vision for a strong conservation network in helping to reunite the sportsmen and ignite the explosive power of local conservation clubs in the Peace Garden State.
With degrees in Environmental Science and Politics from Regis University in Colorado, Bradley has leveraged his education into a position that makes him well suited to represent sportsmen and bring a modern perspective to North Dakota’s premier conservation organization of more than 70 years. In his short time on board, he’s been able to help clubs leverage new technology and communications to build on past traditions and to recruit new members to fill in the ranks of aging affiliates, adding to his accomplishments completed while in the employ of the Montana Wildlife Federation. Moreover, he provides a much-needed link between the affiliate groups, serving as the first point person for NDWF in more than a decade.
“I worked in Montana for four years, learned the ropes on outreach and coordination with affiliate clubs, and helped identify ways for these organizations – some 30, 40 or 50 years old – to figure out how to get young people engaged,” Bradley relates, “I worked with many of them to find those ways – from getting on Facebook to throwing events that attract a younger crowd – but for some, it was total rebuilding from a core of just 10 to 15 people who didn’t even have emails,” he concluded.
With two months on the job under his belt in one of the most contentious legislative sessions in recent memory, Bradley turns to the lessons he has learned in the outdoors to help craft policy and galvanize North Dakota’s sportsmen to take action on matters important to public access and conservation while building relationships with legislators, other sportsman’s groups, and those organizations with differing missions.
“That’s my vision for NDWF going forward,” Bradley says, “that our group will be that convener and organizer of sportsmen’s groups, so it doesn’t take just one bill to keep us moving in the right direction and sitting at the table with all interested parties,” he concluded; and so far it’s working.
In his efforts in the 66th legislative assembly, Bradley has worked hard to create a united front with other North Dakota conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, while reaching out to legislators and organizations which might typically oppose conservation efforts at the capitol. Through it all – particularly the rancorous debate and disposition of SB 2315 pertaining to trespass and public access – he has realized the same fundamental truth carries across state lines: that everything comes down to meeting people eye-to-eye, even if there’s disagreement.
“If you can’t talk to someone on a person-to-person level, you can’t build the trust that’s needed at the capitol or with affiliate clubs,” Bradley stated, recalling an early interaction with a fifth-generation Montanan who questioned his credibility as a young conservation leader, “I told him, ‘I’m not a fifth-generation anything – but I got here as quick as I could so that my great-great-grandchild can have the same opportunities as you.’”
A passionate hunter and angler, Bradley relies on a never-say-die attitude that powers his time in front of legislators, committee members and club leaders as much as it does his time in the field.
The hunting memory that resonates the most with the new Executive Director occurred over a two-year stretch when Bradley and his father pursued antelope in eastern Montana with the bow. In a first season filled with failed stalks, trial-and-error and an errant barbed wire that deflected his only shot, he agreed with his father to try it again the following autumn. When the time came, the pair were met with many of the same challenges that go with sneaking near the wary animals until the perfect shot presented itself, and Bradley bagged his pronghorn at the end of a challenging second season.
“We were trying something new, learning a whole new landscape and style of hunting and to have that success after hundreds of miles of driving – the failed stalks, the heartbreak and the reward – it’s a reminder about the work you put in for it, and that’s why people go hunting,” he concluded, linking the story to the new experiences he faces with the different political, conservation and natural resources landscapes he has found in North Dakota.
In addition to almost daily work at the legislature representing NDWF affiliates and sportsmen, Bradley’s near-term efforts are focused on getting the organization caught back up on paperwork, updating the web and social media presences of NDWF, and reengaging with the organization’s affiliates. He welcomes calls and advice from members – long-term, new or prospective – or anyone that just has a conservation concern that needs to be addressed. Bradley can be reached via phone at: (701) 222-2557 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Photo: NDWF Executive Director John Bradley relies on his education, experience and lessons learned in the field when coordinating conservation efforts with sportsmen, affiliate clubs, and at the capitol during the legislative session. Photo Submitted.