No, Not That BLM

4 min read
Written by: Penelope Lary
(Mark Ralston via Getty Images)

William Perry Pendley has been acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a year. Recently, President Trump nominated him to become the official BLM Director. The Trump administration is responsible for the largest reduction in protected public lands in history. Elevating Pendley would give the 75-year-old far-right activist troubling new authority and political clout.

The BLM oversees one-tenth of America’s land mass — public property comprising 250 million acres of grassland, steppe, desert, and forest, and 700 million subsurface acres rich with fossil fuels and hard-rock minerals. For decades prior to his stint at the BLM, Pendley ran a right wing nonprofit law firm in Colorado dedicated to privatizing public lands, or alternatively making them available to private resource developers including agricultural, oil and gas, mining, and logging companies, with the least possible regulatory restrictions.

Pendley has links to the so-called Wise Use movement and anti-government extremists styling themselves constitutionalists or “sovereign citizens.” Wise Use advocates are fiercely opposed to environmental protection laws; they want all public land privatized so it can be used “wisely” by big business, especially the extractors. The group has been responsible for significant harassment and violence against environmentalists and government agency employees in the Pacific Northwest.

Members of the broader right, notably “sovereign citizens,” deny the federal government’s legitimacy. Pendley has argued the government should “sell its western lands.” He’s praised the Cliven Bundy clan, whose infamous armed standoffs against federal land regulators amounted to acts of domestic terrorism.

Pendley’s policy orders BLM law officers to defer law enforcement to self-proclaimed “constitutionalist” county sheriffs, who’ve vowed not to enforce federal environmental laws on public lands. He’s loosened regulations for the public lands cattle industry, and greenlighted rampant expansion of oil and gas drilling on previously off-limits areas. Two weeks ago, the BLM announced its plan to open most of Alaska’s 23 million acre National Petroleum Reserve for oil and gas leasing.


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