Our organizations represent hundreds of thousands of people who hunt, fish, live and work in the West. For decades, we have given people a voice in the management of America’s public lands, which provide wildlife habitat, outdoor opportunities and economic activity.
We are deeply concerned by the steps that this administration is taking to curtail public access, degrade wildlife habitat, sell off our public lands and skirt scrutiny for radical agendas.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 248 million acres of public land, mostly in the West, along with about 700 million acres of mineral rights. BLM lands provide habitat for deer, elk, antelope and other big game, trout and other sportfish, and hundreds of other wildlife species. These lands also provide places for people to hunt, fish, camp, hike and enjoy the outdoors, alongside sustainable ranching and appropriate energy development.
Given the importance of public lands to our states, we were troubled to see the installation of William Perry Pendley into a new position “exercising the authority of the director” of the BLM. Pendley’s appointment was carefully worded to avoid a formal nomination, which would require scrutiny and confirmation by the American people through the Senate.
Such legal gymnastics have given Pendley the job without a formal nomination process because the administration knows that his radical views would not stand up to public scrutiny.
First, Pendley is a fierce advocate for the sale of federal public lands into private ownership. Selling off America’s public lands would undercut our outdoor heritage, destroy local communities, and decimate our economy. It will ruin the livelihoods for small family ranches and close off the lands that provide wild game meat to families across the West. This radical position is a non-starter in the West, and it has been soundly rejected by elected officials of both parties at every level of government.
Pendley’s support for selling off public lands is the tip of his radical views. He believes that drilling and mining should be the only uses on public lands. For the last 30 years, he has served as president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, an activist group that routinely (and unsuccessfully) sues the federal government to curtail agency authority and public access to public land.
In defending Pendley’s appointment, the head of the Montana Petroleum Association said, “We have no doubts that Perry Pendley will follow the law and not his personal opinions in managing Federal lands in the West.”
Our question is, why would we even consider letting someone run the BLM, or any government agency, when his “personal opinions” are at odds with the law? It is telling that support for Pendley hinges on promises that he will perform job duties that are exactly the opposite of what is presented by his resume — a disqualification for any job candidate in any industry.
Pendley’s appointment comes as the Interior Department has proposed reducing the BLM’s staff in Washington, D.C. from about 500 people to 60. Given that more than 95 percent of the agency’s 10,000 personnel already live in the West, this proposal is not about moving control to the West. It is about chopping off the agency’s head and limiting its ability to advocate for Western interests and be responsive to congressional oversight. Nobody in the West asked for this change, and we stand to lose the most if it happens.
If Pendley is qualified to be BLM director, then the administration should nominate him to the job. Let him appear before the Senate and explain how his support for selling off public lands and dismantling the BLM will benefit those of us who actually live in the West.
Dave Chadwick is the executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation
Brian Brooks is the executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation.
Dwayne Meadows is the executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.