Missoula Current: Montana Democrats voice opposition to Pendley’s nomination to head BLM

by Martin Kidston

Montana Democrats are opposing William Perry Pendley’s nomination to head the Bureau of Land Management, saying he has supported the sale of public lands and lobbied on behalf of the oil and gas industry.

President Donald Trump last week said he will submit Pendley’s official nomination to head the agency. Pendley has served in an acting roll since last summer and has drawn the ire of environmental stewards and public lands advocates ever since.

“While I strongly oppose his nomination, I encourage you to expedite this process so he can testify before the American people immediately and be held accountable for anti-public lands record and views,” Sen. Jon Tester wrote in a letter to the president. “For far too long, Acting Director Pendley has run the BLM without submitting himself to a public process. He has a long track record undermining our public lands.”

Earlier this month, Tester called for Pendley’s removal as acting director, saying his history as an opponent of public lands and his ties to the oil and gas industry made him a poor choice to head an agency charged with managing the nation’s public lands.

Tester cited similar concerns when Pendley was installed as acting director last summer.

“He worked against local communities when he fought to drill in the Badger-Two Medicine area in Montana,” Tester said at the time. “He has worked for years to eliminate or gut environmental protections that preserve our public lands and the jobs that depend on them.”

Sen. Steve Daines has said in the past that he would support Pendley’s nomination. In an election year, his challenger for the seat – Gov. Steve Bullock – stated his opposition to Pendley’s nomination.

“To put Pendley in charge of the Bureau of Land Management – and their eight million acres of public lands in Montana it oversees – is like putting a fox in charge of guarding the hen house,” Bullock said in a statement. “Pendley has been serving illegally as acting director for some time now, and I fully expect he will step down from his position on Monday in accordance with the requirements of federal law.”

Montana Conservation Voters also weighed in on Pendley’s nomination. According to the group, Pendley in 2016 said the “Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.”

The group also noted that Pendley sued the state of Montana in 2000 in an effort to overturn its stream access law.

“MCV welcomes the opportunity for Montana’s U.S. senators to finally vet William Perry Pendley and to see why he is unfit to manage more than a quarter billion acres of our public lands,” the organization said. “We expect our congressional delegation to stand up for Montanans and oppose Pendley’s nomination, and we thank Senator Tester for being ahead of the curve.”