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Booted from BLM role, Pendley says he will respect court order, argues 'I have not been ousted'

Booted from BLM role, Pendley says he will respect court order, argues 'I have not been ousted'
© Courtesy Department of Interior

Embattled Bureau of Land Management official William Perry Pendley told a Wyoming public radio station he has not been “ousted” from his job at the agency despite a court ruling saying he illegally served as its acting director.

The Friday interview was distributed by BLM’s press office Tuesday evening, couched as a way to “correct the record” after Pendley garnered attention in an interview with another outlet saying the court ruling “has no impact, no impact whatsoever” on his role within the department.

“If there's something that needs action by the director of the Bureau of Land Management, I won't be doing that,” Pendley said in an interview he requested with Wyoming Public Media the next day. 

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“The judge said I can't do that. And so, I won't be doing that.”

A Montana-based U.S. District Court judge ruled last month that Pendley "served unlawfully ... for 424 days," giving the Department of the Interior 10 days to justify why it shouldn’t throw out many of the decisions Pendley has made during his tenure.

Pendley, who had served as the de-facto head of BLM for over a year, was only nominated to the position this summer, but the nomination was withdrawn shortly thereafter. Pendley has a long history of opposing federal ownership of public lands, and the entire Democratic caucus planned to oppose him — putting the spotlight on vulnerable Republicans up for reelection.

Pendley served as the acting director through a series of temporary orders that were challenged in court by Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOvernight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid Democrats seek to block appeal of court ruling ousting Pendley, BLM land plans MORE (D). His role is now limited to his official title of deputy director for policy and programs.

“I see these headlines in these newspaper stories saying I've been ousted; I have not been ousted. I'm still at my desk, I have the confidence of the President of the United States, I have the confidence of the Secretary. And my task is to fulfill the President's commitment to the American people to have jobs, to have conservation, and to increase recreation on our public lands,” Pendley said in the latest interview.

He went on to say the Department of the Interior, which oversees BLM, will appeal the ruling. 

Pendley’s comments are a bit of a departure from his prior interview with the Powell Tribune.

“I’m still here, I’m still running the bureau,” Pendley told the outlet. “I have always been, from day one.”