Who’s Pendley?

Originally posted on July 17, 2020

William Perry Pendley is not a household name. He currently heads the BLM – the federal Bureau of Land Management. That bureau is responsible for the management of some 247 million acres of publicly-owned land, almost all of it in the western states.

Pendley’s history at the BLM is contentious, and not just because of any policies, although those are contentious enough. Normally the director of the BLM is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. However, in Trump’s chaotic administration finding competent and non-controversial candidates who would work for Trump is apparently fairly difficult So lots of positions are filled with “acting” administrators and the faces seem to change rather quickly.

The Department of the Interior (where the BLM resides) seems to have had significant problems finding able administrators. In what is to me a remarkable document, the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt (who was also an acting Secretary until shortly before he issued the remarkable document, replacing Ryan Zinke a few months earlier, whew!) named seven (7!) positions that normally needed Senate confirmation that remained unfilled. He went ahead and didn’t really actually name people to those positions; rather he delegated their responsibilities. Pendley was “c” in the below list. So he was never even nominated, let alone confirmed. Here’s the gist of the remarkable document:

The purpose of this Order is to temporarily redelegate authority for the following vacant non-career Presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed positions for which there is no Principal Deputy that would automatically become acting by operation of law:

  • a. Deputy Secretary
  • b. Solicitor
  • c. Director, Bureau of Land Management
  • d. Special Trustee for American Indians
  • e. Director, National Park Service
  • f. Director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
  • g. Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

OK, so he isn’t entirely legit. What about his policies? One can have legitimate disagreements about the use and scale of federally-owned lands. Pendley advocates selling federal lands to various private interests, a position that doesn’t sit well with most Americans; at least most Americans who don’t stand to profit from those sales. Aside from that general policy, he has some views that are remarkably consistent with Trump’s – that is, racist and bigoted.

So why is he in the news now? Well, Trump just nominated him for the director’s job. Finally. Nobody can say why, especially so close to the election. What this nomination really does is put a number of western Senators in a real bind. If they support him they piss off all their constituents who don’t want to potentially lose access to a large part of their state. If they don’t they piss off the Trump true believers. Politico calls this an “unforced error” and it seems that Trump is making more and more of them these days.

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