The White House will withdraw its nomination of former Colorado attorney William Perry Pendley to head the federal Bureau of Land Management, according to multiple news reports that were confirmed by the Department of the Interior.
Pendley has been BLM's deputy director for programs and policy since July 2019. In June, President Trump announced he would nominate Pendley for director.
In a statement, the Department of Interior confirmed the withdrawal, but said that "the President makes staffing decisions. Mr. Pendley continues to lead the Bureau of Land Management as Deputy Director for Programs and Policy."
President Trump will announce Pendley's withdrawal after the Senate comes back from its August recess, the department confirmed.
Calls and emails to the BLM and Pendley for comment were not immediately returned.
Pendley's nomination, as well as his leadership of BLM, has been controversial from the start.
A native of Cheyenne, Pendley has been in charge of the BLM as it completed a move to Grand Junction. He formerly led the Lakewood-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, which has advocated for selling off federal lands in Western states. Pendley had said he would not move to Grand Junction.
The Center for Western Priorities, in a statement Saturday, said “withdrawing William Perry Pendley’s nomination confirms he couldn’t even survive a confirmation process run by the president’s allies in the Senate," according to Executive Director Jennifer Rokala. "Whoever is in charge of one-tenth of all lands in America must be approved by the Senate, and these bald-faced attempts to evade the Senate’s advice-and-consent duties cannot stand."
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has been noncommittal about Pendley's nomination. Gardner previously said he looked forward to "asking tough questions during the confirmation process and is committed to the success of the Bureau of Land Management, which is why he championed the headquarters’ move to Grand Junction, so that the Bureau of Land Management would be surrounded by the land and people it serves.
"Selling off public lands is a non-starter for any nominee; protecting the nation’s public lands has been and will remain a priority."
Saturday, upon the news that Pendley's nomination was being withdrawn, Gardner said "I’ll continue fighting to ensure the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters move to Grand Junction is fully completed and that the future leadership of the BLM will commit to ensuring Colorado remains the home of the BLM headquarters. ”
A statement from the campaign of Colorado Democratic Senate nominee John Hickenlooper said that Gardner "didn't speak out against Pendley's racism, his climate denial, or his support for selling off EVERY SINGLE ACRE of Colorado's public lands. Cory Gardner hasn’t said a peep this whole time. He’s been silent and failed to stand up for Colorado."
"Good riddance," said John Bowman of the National Resources Defense Council. "Pendley never hid his intentions to hand over the country’s treasured resources to polluters and should never have been nominated. The administration’s next BLM appointee should be someone who intends to fiercely protect and steward lands for the enjoyment of future generations."
Montana Governor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Steve Bullock filed a lawsuit last month, attempting to block Pendley from exercising authority of the Director while he was a nominee.
Senate Democrats, including Colorado's senior Sen. Michael Bennet, have opposed Pendley's nomination, sending a letter to the White House four days ago asking the President to withdraw it.
In a statement Saturday, Bennet said Pendley "should have never been chosen to lead the Bureau of Land Management. His polices do not reflect Colorado's values. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt should terminate Pendley's authority as acting director of BLM and the administration should nominate someone who is qualified to lead the agency."
Politico reported last month that Pendley's nomination puts Gardner, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona in a difficult position: either support Pendley or risk losing the political benefit from the recent Great American Outdoors Act, which Gardner sponsored. All three Republican senators sit on the Senate Energy Committee that would have considered Pendley's nomination.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, told Politico that "everything they gain from being part of the Great American Outdoors Act will go out the window if they support this nominee."
Note: This story has been updated to clarify Gardner's support of Pendley.