The Bureau of Land Management is a subsidiary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and manages over 247 million acres of public land–primarily in Western states. Notwithstanding the numerous recent controversies and ethics-probes into the DOI and its leadership, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now dealing with an issue of their own: a recently appointed Director, who has argued that the “Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold”. 

The purpose of the BLM is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations,” through a principle of multiple use. Multiple use is an essential aspect to the BLM’s activities and decision making process; this includes: renewable energy development, conventional energy development, livestock grazing, mining activities, timber harvesting, and a multitude of recreational activities. However, the BLM is also tasked with the conservation and preservation of National Conservation Lands (wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, national monuments, national conservation areas, historic trails, and wild and scenic rivers), as well as fish and wildlife. Put simply, the BLM is tasked with effectively and fairly balancing all these priorities. 

Director of the Bureau of Land Management, William Perry Pendley

On Monday, DOI Secretary David Bernhardt–who has been accused of significant conflicts of interests–appointed William Perry Pendley the acting head of the BLM. This move is deeply concerning to public lands advocates, as Pendley is a staunch opponent of the federal government owning land. Similarly, Pendley is on record saying things that no reasonable advocate of multiple use land management should be saying: “69 degrees and sunny today.  Sky is falling tomorrow. #ClimateChangeIsReal NOT!”; “Endangered Species Act is a joke”; and, “I’ve said it before and will say it again, fracking is an energy,  economic, AND environmental miracle!”. 

Courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts

Pendley’s public comments make it hard to view him has an objective manager of nearly 250 million acres of public land. Climate change is a global phenomenon that “97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree” with, according to NASA. Without the Endangered Species Act’s protections, who knows what would become of numerous species of salmon and steelhead, which are currently listed as “endangered” or “threatened”. While the practice of fracking has caused a boom in U.S. oil and gas development, it is known to lead to water pollution. Natural resource extraction is a necessary component of America’s energy needs, but adequate regulations and oversight must accompany the potentially environmentally-negative activity. 

These comments are also at odds with listed BLM priorities:  “Reducing and limiting the discharge of pollutants and sediments into water resources”; “Create a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt”; “To improve the health and productivity of the land to support the BLM multiple-use mission”. We will be following BLM actions as they happen–hopefully, they adhere to the principles of balanced multiple-use. Efficient Public lands facilitate access for millions that engage in outdoor recreation across Western states. The economic benefits of this access are a significant impact for many Western states, which is why an effective balance of multiple use public lands must be preserved. 

For more on William Perry Pendley, check out this Associated Press story.

Cover picture courtesy of @SanJuanAndEggs

This article was written by Flylords’ Conservation Editor, Will Poston.