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Controversial BLM leader will defend agency's relocation before Congress

William Perry Pendley, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) highest political official, will appear before Congress on Tuesday to defend a decision to relocate the agency to western Colorado.

Pendley, a controversial figure who once advocated selling off public lands, has confirmed he will appear before the House Natural Resources Committee.

The hearing is one of the first after returning from August recess, and many Democrats have publicly opposed the move.

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The Interior Department announced in July it would move all but 61 of its Washington-based employees closer to the public lands the agency manages in the West. 

While 27 employees will move to Grand Junction, Colo., the other roughly 300 employees will be scattered at existing offices across the West. The rest of BLM's 10,000 employees are already located in the region. 

Critics say the move will make the agency dysfunctional, spreading career-track policy employees across the country while keeping them away from corridors of power.

This will be Pendley’s first appearance before lawmakers since he was appointed at the end of July. BLM directors must be confirmed by the Senate, but the bureau has had several temporary leaders under the Trump administration.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt quietly signed an order making Pendley deputy director of BLM policy and programs, effectively serving as the agency’s director.

Updated at 10:27 a.m.