“Amid the COVID-19 crisis and the uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism, it is understandable if many Americans overlooked the Trump administration’s continued attacks on the management of public lands and the Constitution’s mandates about how our leaders are appointed.
The most recent attack of this type came with President Trump’s June 30, 2020, nomination of William Perry Pendley to be the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has kept Pendley “exercising the authority of the director” in the role of Deputy Director of the Bureau since last July, in an illegal end-run around the federal law and the Constitution that limits the roles of “acting” directors. Now the administration is trying to get Pendley officially confirmed.
Even in normal times, Pendley would be a terrible choice to lead the Bureau, whose mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” He’s a self-described “sagebrush rebel” who has a long record of opposing the very existence of the public lands he now oversees. Writing in 2016, Pendley said, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.” He has overseen the Bureau’s highly-politicized move from Washington, D.C. to the agency’s new western Colorado headquarters, losing critical long-term staff and creating vacancies in key positions.
Pendley not only approves of selling off the public lands but also selling out federal laws. In 2014, he complained that the Obama administration was waging a “war on the West” in its higher scrutiny of fossil fuel operations on public lands, and he claimed that environmental groups use the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act to “prevent anybody from making a living on federal land.””