President Donald Trump intends to nominate William Perry Pendley to be the director of the Bureau of Land Management, after he served for nearly one year as the non-confirmed acting director of the agency.
Officially the deputy director for policy and programs at BLM, Pendley was the subject of a recent lawsuit challenging U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt’s continued reappointments of Pendley as acting head. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that the legal action cited the Federal Vacancies Reform Act’s prohibition on acting directors serving for longer than 210 days.
“I commend President Trump’s intent to nominate,” said Bernhardt on Friday. Pendley is “doing a great job, including acquiring more than 25,000 acres of public land for expanded recreational access.”
Pendley was formerly the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which advocates for “individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited government, and the free enterprise system.” It is currently involved in a lawsuit to protect Wyoming ranchers from “environmental extremists’ attack.”
BLM manages 245 million acres of surface land and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral rights across the country, and primarily in the West. During his time as acting director, Pendley oversaw the controversial and ongoing move of several BLM employees to a new Grand Junction office. Pendley himself remains in Washington, D.C.
The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation advocacy group based in Denver, referenced the move in a Friday afternoon statement that was highly critical of Pendley's tenure.
"If there’s one upside to the year-long delay in nominating Pendley," the center wrote, "it’s that the Senate and the country can now see Pendley is not only unfit to run the Bureau of Land Management, he is uniquely incompetent as well, having overseen a disastrous ‘relocation’ of BLM headquarters that led to the evisceration of agency leadership and expertise.”
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet echoed the criticism, announcing that he would vote against Pendley's confirmation.
"During Pendley’s tenure leading BLM, Colorado has had a front row seat to his priorities. Instead of listening to Colorado, he’s taking orders from President Trump and prioritizing oil and gas development above recreation and conservation," Bennet said. He added that a nominee who has "spent their entire career opposed to the very idea of public lands is unfit to lead a land management agency."
This article has been updated with additional comment.