The Trump Administration has withdrawn William Perry Pendley from consideration by the U.S. Senate to officially be named head of the Bureau of Land Management. 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 controversial public statements regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, immigrants, Indigenous communities and others.
“Withdrawing the nomination is good and significant,” said Adam Cramer, the executive director of the conservation nonprofit Outdoor Alliance, “but given what he has said about Black Americans and the LGBTQ+ community, withdrawing Mr. Pendley from his role as the acting director of Bureau of Land Management would be better. Finding someone who earnestly believes in the mission of BLM should not be this difficult.”
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 a 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.”
Government transparency watchdogs also decried the longstanding absence of a formal approval process for his position as well as his relocation of the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., 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 @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]
The BLM manages over 35,625 square miles of public land in Utah, over 42% of the state’s landmass.
Will continue as acting BLM head, officials say