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Coalition of 91 groups asks for resignation or removal of BLM chief

Coalition of 91 groups asks for resignation or removal of BLM chief
© Courtesy Department of Interior

A coalition of 91 groups with ties to public lands sent a letter Monday asking that acting Bureau of Land Management (BLM) head William Pendley immediately resign or face removal from his post.

Pendley, a controversial figure over his past comments opposing federal land ownership, has been widely opposed by conservation, sportsman, public interest and environmental groups, who said “his actions betray BLM’s mission and demonstrate his lack of fitness to lead it.”

The coalition’s letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who oversees BLM, comes as Pendley’s temporary delegation of power is set to expire on Friday. Interior has been criticized for using temporary orders to fill high-ranking posts with controversial figures who would be unlikely to earn Senate confirmation.

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“Pendley holds views that are antithetical to the BLM’s mission to manage public lands and resources on behalf of all Americans,” the groups wrote in the letter, citing not only Pendley's prior comments but also his work as a lawyer for groups fighting the designation of protected areas.

His long history of involvement with such groups was a feature of his 17-page recusal list, which highlighted his work with several counties in Utah fighting to reduce the scale of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

“Regardless of Pendley’s recusal from any involvement in this litigation, his position at the head of the BLM is a conflict of interest, or at the very least, a public perception of the same that undermines his credibility and authority to direct the Bureau,” the groups wrote.

“The fact that Pendley’s current appointment gives him the power to direct BLM officials to defer to the policy agendas of these counties, which includes maximizing resource extraction and opening lands to motor vehicles that were previously closed to protect wildlife habitat and irreplaceable cultural sites, is deeply troubling.”

Books written by Pendley make clear his philosophy on government land ownership, including “War on the West: Government Tyranny on America’s Frontier” and “Warriors for the West: Fighting Bureaucrats, Radical Groups, and Liberal Judges on America’s Frontier.” 

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The Department of Interior pegged the groups involved in the drafting of the letter, ranging from a number of local wildlife groups to the outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, as environmental extremists.

"For this group of environmental extremists to call themselves sportsman and conservationists is as laughable as this letter. Mr. Pendley brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department and is committed to carrying out the Administration's priorities for the betterment of the American people," a spokesperson told The Hill by email.

The coalition says they also oppose Pendley given his involvement in the plans to move the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., while scattering nearly all Washington-based employees to other offices across the West. Those who do not accept the new assignment will face losing their jobs, something the coalition described as demoralizing.

Updated at 6:22 p.m.