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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Jul 22 2020

William Perry Pendley Has No Business Overseeing Our Public Lands

Confirming him as BLM chief would be like putting an arsonist in charge of a fire department

Before William Perry Pendley became acting director of the Bureau of Land Management last year, he was the lead counsel for Solenex, a Louisiana company that sued the federal government for the right to drill in the Badger-Two Medicine, an area the Blackfeet Nation considers sacred.

He was also a supporter of Nevada rancher and scofflaw Cliven Bundy, who led an armed standoff against BLM and local law enforcement when they tried to collect on the $1 million Bundy owed (and still owes) the American public in grazing fees.

That tells you a little something about Pendley and how he views public lands – as something that individuals and companies should be able to exploit purely for their own benefit, the rest of us and our values be damned. In fact, Pendley thinks that public lands should simply be sold off, as he made abundantly clear in a National Review article titled “The Federal Government Should Follow the Constitution and Sell Its Western Lands.”

Could there be anyone more ill-suited, more dangerous, and less qualified to lead the BLM and oversee the management of 250 million acres of public lands across the U.S. (including 8 million acres in Montana) than Pendley? As we’ve said before, it’s like putting an arsonist in charge of a firehouse

That’s why it came as a shock when Interior Sec. David Bernhardt made him defacto acting director of the BLM, an agency that Pendley has spent most of his career attacking, a job that puts him in charge of lands he doesn’t think the public should even own. Since then, Pendley has presided over the release of a management plan that would open up 95% of public lands in central Montana to oil and gas development, lands administered by the BLM’s Lewistown field office that include some of the last intact grasslands in the country and some of the best big game habitat in North America. The management plan has been part of a desperate drive that Bernhardt and Pendley have led to sell out as many public lands as possible, as quickly as possible, to the oil and gas industry, even during the pandemic.

He’s also led a disastrous relocation of the BLM’s headquarters from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, a move that has resulted in an exodus of veteran BLM staff and crippled the agency. 

Now President Trump has formally nominated Pendley to become BLM director, which means Montanans are now relying on Sen. Steve Daines to do what he obviously needs to do on behalf of public lands and Montana’s way of life and outdoor recreation economy: vote against Pendley’s confirmation in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Daines is a member.

The signs aren’t good.

Back in November, a reporter asked Daines if he would support Pendley if he were nominated as BLM chief. Daines said he would. 

Please take a few seconds to let Daines know that Montanans are relying on him to reject Pendley.
Call Sen. Daines today



Considering how egregious Pendley’s nomination is, Sen. Jon Tester and eight of his western colleagues sent a letter this week to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee requesting that it expedite Pendley’s hearing.

“After nearly a year as Acting Director, Mr. Pendley’s formal nomination is long overdue, and the public deserves the opportunity to hold him accountable for his record of undermining our public lands, clean water, and jobs that rely on both,” the letter stated.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced this week that he was suing Pendley to block his nomination, arguing that Pendley has been unlawfully acting as BLM’s director for the past year and making decisions that have undermined collaboration and harmed Montana’s public lands, economy, and wildlife.

He pointed to the Lewistown and Missoula field office management plans as clear examples of Pendley’s interference, arguing that “[Pendley] improperly rewrote resource management plans produced after years of work at the Lewistown and Missoula field offices to ignore or reject thousands of acres of proposed land protections.”

Indeed, the Lewistown management plan that local BLM staff drafted in 2006 offered protections for 100,000 acres out of the 200,000 acres the agency had identified as having wilderness character. The most recent plan protects zero acres.

Be sure to let Daines know that Montanans are relying on his no vote on Pendley.

Kayje Booker
Policy and Advocacy Director

Kayje mobilizes grassroots efforts and works with partner organizations and state elected officials to protect and enhance our public lands. She enjoys camping, slow runs with her dog, and traveling both near and far.
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