Jim Bradbury grew up in Richardson and watched the Metroplex consume the unfenced prairie, fields and woods that were his playground.
“In elementary school, I could ride my bike and find ‘natural magic’ nearby,” said Bradbury. “It was a backyard with no limits. Then, the wave of ‘progress’ washed over my playground.”
By the time Bradbury left to study agricultural economics at Texas A&M University in 1984, the fertile, open land was almost all paved.
“The landscape’s transformation from cotton fields and cattle ranches to concrete and asphalt had a profound effect on me,” Bradbury said. “It made me very aware of just how quickly we can lose our natural history and agricultural heritage.”
When Bradbury was trying to choose between joining his grandfather on their family’s Kansas farm and law school, his grandfather steered him to law school. Bradbury, who earned his Juris Doctor at University of Idaho, gained experience in corporate law at several large firms before joining Jackson Walker, where he applied his land-based knowledge to cases involving eminent domain and water law. In 2007, he opened a private practice focusing on agriculture and water law. He also serves as adjunct faculty member at the Texas A&M School of Law teaching an agricultural law and other special topics.
“A perfect storm is threatening open spaces in Texas,” Bradbury said. “The current generation of ag landowners is getting older and the economics of agriculture make it hard for families to say no to developers waving big checks generated by lenders who see the demand for houses and strip centers that is driven by an influx of new residents. Frankly, we have a small window to act.”
Land trusts, particularly TALT, give landowners a practical tool for conserving their legacies.
“People want to conserve their land—and the productive, personal history that goes with it—but they don’t know how,” Bradbury says. “That’s where TALT and its team comes in. We have to sit at those kitchen tables, earn the landowners’ trust as a valued partner and build those relationships into conserved tracts.”