Monday, August 17, 2020

Controversial nominee pulled, but he will keep running BLM

William "Perry" Pendley
"The Trump administration withdrew the controversial nomination of William 'Perry' Pendley to head the Bureau of Land Management on Saturday amid signs that the choice would hurt the re-election prospects of Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Steve Daines (Mont.)," Steven Mufson reports for The Washington Post. "Earlier this month, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee received the materials needed to hold hearings on the nomination. But Democrats were planning to press Daines, who sits on the committee and is in a tight race with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D). It was not clear whether Gardner or Daines would vote for Pendley."

Senate Republicans have taken pains to help Gardner and Daines' re-election prospects, including passing a bill they co-sponsored that permanently protects public lands and addresses part of the national park system's maintenance backlog. Public-lands preservation has been a major campaign platform for both senators.

Pendley, BLM's deputy director for policy and programs, has been acting director since July 2019. He has been criticized for controversial views about public lands, the environment, and other issues. Before his tenure at BLM, he was the longtime president of the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation. During that time, he wrote that there should be no public lands and said repeatedly that climate change lacks credible scientific evidence. Also while at the MSLF, "he had sued the Interior Department on behalf of an oil and gas prospector, sought to undermine protections of endangered species such as the grizzly bear, and pressed to radically reduce the size of federal lands to make way for development," Mufson reports.

However, just because Pendley's nomination has been withdrawn, he isn't out of the picture. "White House and Interior officials said that Pendley would continue to serve in his current, lower-level deputy director position at the Interior Department, a job that effectively lets him continue to act as head of the BLM. Pendley was the only person nominated to head the BLM under Trump," Mufson reports. "Several federal agencies are being run by the Trump administration using similar arrangements."

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