Washington, DC, July 30, 2019 — William Perry Pendley, an ultra-right wing Sagebrush Rebellion lawyer who has supported the selling off of millions of acres of federal lands, is now the top political official overseeing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — barely 2 weeks after joining the agency. Pendley, who until December had served for 30 years as president of the arch-conservative law firm Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), was appointed by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt as BLM’s deputy director of policy and programs, “exercising the authority of the Director.”
The Federal law that created BLM requires the Director to “have a broad background and substantial experience in public land and natural resource management.” Not only does lawyer Pendley lack those qualities, he is on record as advocating on behalf of MSLF that BLM should waste away by downsizing its land holdings through massive sell-offs. This would very likely put the formerly public lands into ownership by oil and gas companies and other wealthy corporations, who then could exclude the public. The BLM manages one in every 10 acres of land in the United States, all of which could become private if Pendley is able to exert his power.
Further, the BLM Director position is one that requires the “advice and consent” of the Senate, under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. However, President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt have diligently detoured around that requirement, denying all of the U.S. Senate the ability to review and confirm or deny a nominee for the position.
“The very purpose of the Constitution’s advice and consent requirement is so the Senate can block the President from appointing unqualified, ultra-controversial ideologues like William Pendley into major agency leadership positions,” said Peter Jenkins, PEER’s Senior Counsel. “Anyone who cares about our country’s vast Western public lands should be scared stiff about Mr. Pendley, who wants to get rid of them.”
BLM has been run during the Trump Administration by a rotating cast of political appointees, whom PEER has named “bad actors.” Mr. Pendley is the 5th such actor. Mr. Trump has never even bothered to nominate a full Director to the Senate for confirmation. The legality of all these appointments is highly doubtful. The tenure of these acting officials has been marked by poor management, cratering employee morale and management decisions aimed at elevating oil and gas production off BLM lands above all other values.