The Trump Administration will reportedly withdraw William Perry Pendley from consideration by the U.S. Senate to officially be named head of the Bureau of Land Management, according to White House sources who spoke to Outdoor Life.
Criticized by public lands and hunting groups for numerous public anti-environmentalist statements, Pendley has served as acting head of the agency since August 2019, and will continue to lead the BLM despite the withdrawal of his official nomination, according to officials.
“The President makes staffing decisions. Mr. Pendley continues to lead the Bureau of Land Management as Deputy Director for Programs and Policy,” Department of the Interior spokesperson Nicholas Goodwin confirmed to a reporter from The Hill.
Pendley’s nomination to the office has been roundly criticized by advocates who point to his public comments advocating for the sale of public lands, as well as government transparency watchdogs who decry the absence of a formal approval process.
Before taking the post, Pendley was known around the West for campaigning against the federal control of public lands in the West as an attorney and the president of the board of directors for the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a “non-profit, public interest law firm, focused on defending the constitution, protecting property rights, and advancing economic liberty,” according to its website.
A coalition of over 90 environmental and legal groups with ties to public lands sent the letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Dec. 30, saying that Pendley should be removed as “his actions betray BLM’s mission and demonstrate his lack of fitness to lead it.”
In September 2019, Pendley released a 17-page list of organizations and individuals he could have a conflict of interest with in his work at the BLM, as first reported by E&E News. The list included recusing himself many Utah-related issues, including barring him from interacting with Garfield, Kane and San Juan counties, whom he represented in active lawsuits over the shrinking of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The BLM manages over 35,625 square miles of public land in Utah, over 42% of the state’s landmass.
Pendley led a move to relocate the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, which many watchdog groups believed was intended to drive out senior BLM workers and undermine the agency’s effectiveness in influencing policy.
As an author, Pendley has written widely on his opposition to federal land management, including “The War on the West: Governmental Tyranny on America’s Great Frontier” and “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today.”
Pendley’s Twitter handle is also @SagebrushRebel, a reference to the high-profile opposition to federal management of public lands popular in Utah politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
[After publication, a BLM spokesperson emphasized that Pendley started using the Twitter handle in 2013 as a reference to his book with that title published that year about President Ronald Reagan’s western policies, “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today.” – ed]
Pendley has declined to discuss his past advocacy or policy opinions, stating that “what I thought, what I wrote, what I did in the past is irrelevant,” when questioned at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in October, as reported by the High Country News.