Advocates of public lands have long opposed William Perry Pendley. Ever since he was appointed Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the coalition of those opposing his authority and future appointment grew. The BLM is a subsidiary of the Department of Interior and manages our public lands–roughly 247.3 million acres. The controversy of Pendley derives from his past positions on public lands, including advocating the sale of all federal western lands, and his deep ties with mining and agriculture industries.
As recently as June 26th 2020, President Trump highlighted his support for Pendley, when he formally nominated the Acting Director to become the lawful and Senate-approved Director of BLM. Extreme opposition to this fringe character overseeing the management of America’s public lands ramped up. And with 2020 being an election year, the politics of Pendley’s nomination became abundantly clear. Vulnerable western Senators would have a very tough vote to make–support President Trump’s candidate to lead the BLM or vote with their respective state constituencies. Senators Steve Daines and Corey Gardner of Montana and Colorado respectively are particular vulnerable and making a last minute bid to increase their reelection chances by padding their environmental records.
Senator Daines and Gardner had more than a year to oppose Pendley’s position within BLM, yet avoided a position and lucked out on making a tough vote before very close elections. The pressure exerted by Montanans and Coloradans, who cherish their public lands and all the derivative benefits, prevailed.
However, it is important to note that just because the White House withdrew the nomination, all is good at BLM. Pendley will remain Acting Director of BLM, which on its own stands on shaky legal ground. So, yes, the withdrawal is a good decision, but why is a man who has an extensive record of advocating the sale of federal lands still managing 247.3 million acres of public lands.
Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who has led the charge opposing Pendley’s nomination and position in BLM, had this to say:
Let’s be clear. The White House is pulling down the Pendley nomination because Americans don’t want a zealot in charge of their public lands.
Too bad not a single western Republican would call for him to step down as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management.
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) August 15, 2020
What a crazy summer for conservation and public lands 2020 has been. In any event, we are all hoping a reasonable person be nominated to lead BLM in short time. Our public lands are too important to our outdoor heritage and outdoor recreation economy to let men like Pendley manage them.