Interior extends tenure of controversial land management director

Interior extends tenure of controversial land management director
© Courtesy Department of Interior

The Interior Department on Friday extended the appointment of William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management in an acting capacity until May 5.

Extending Pendley’s tenure, which was slated to expire on Friday, was met with some pushback from conservationists because of statements he has made opposing federal land ownership.

Pendley previously wrote a number of books advocating for selling off public lands, including titles like “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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“Americans deeply value our public lands and yet the administration has appointed a man to be in charge of them who does not believe public lands should exist,” said a statement from Tracy Stone-Manning, the National Wildlife Federation’s associate vice president for public lands.

“The administration needs to appoint a permanent director who shares the values of and mission of the agency and American people, not someone who has corporate conflicts and is fundamentally opposed to the concept of public lands,” Stone-Manning added, referencing Pendley’s 17-page recusal list

Critics have argued that Interior’s continued use of temporary appointments allows the department to keep controversial figures in place who would be unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate.

“The lack of leadership, cronyism and corruption pervasive in the Trump administration is glaringly obvious during this growing crisis, and it is exactly why the U.S. Constitution requires Senate confirmable officials in these critical positions,” said a statement from Jayson O’Neill, the director of Western Values Project.

Pendley has been running the bureau since July 2019, and his tenure has been extended several times. Around the time of Pendley’s last extension in January, a coalition of 91 groups called for his ouster. 

At the time, an Interior spokesperson told The Hill in an email that 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.”

Also extended in Friday’s order were the tenures of acting National Park Service Director David Vela, acting Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Director Lanny Erdos and acting Special Trustee for American Indians Jerold Gidner. 

Rebecca Beitsch contributed to this report.