Tester Takes Bernhardt to Task After Failing to Replace Pendley at BLM

“The American people deserve better” than an anti-public lands crusader

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt extended William Perry Pendley’s leadership of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM):

“A man who has spent his entire career calling for the sale of our public lands should not be in charge of them, plain and simple. His dangerous zealotry puts Montana’s $7 billion recreation industry and outdoor way of life at risk. William Pendley has absolutely no business running the Bureau of Land Management, and he should be replaced immediately.”

Pendley, who was appointed in July as Acting Director of the BLM without Senate confirmation, has repeatedly stated his desire to sell off America’s public lands and was forced to recuse himself from a large body of BLM’s portfolio due to various, flagrant conflicts of interest. The original order naming Pendley to his position expired today.

Tester joined his colleagues last week in calling on Bernhardt to remove Pendley and offer a new nominee, citing his career-long opposition to public lands.

For decades, Mr. Pendley has advocated for the widespread sale of public lands and fought to erode America’s conservation legacy,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Bernhardt. “Over the course of his career, he’s argued for eliminating the Endangered Species Act, abolishing the Antiquities Act, and repealing laws that safeguard sportsmen’s access. While writing five books focused on his view of western liberties, such as “War on the West” and “Sagebrush Rebel,” Mr. Pendley failed to recognize that freedom for many Americans comes from the shared ownership of more than 600 million acres of public land.”

Tester has been critical of Pendley since he was appointed in July. Last month he wrote a letter to Pendley calling on him to recuse himself from conflicts of interest arising from his past leadership of the anti-public lands group Mountain States Legal Foundation and his counsel on behalf of Solenex LLC, the firm seeking to restore illegally-issued drilling leases in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area. He also demanded Pendley explain his past ethical violations regarding a coal leasing program he oversaw during the Reagan Administration.

Pendley, who has encouraged armed standoffs between federal law enforcement officials and ranchers, recused himself last week but has so far refused to respond to Tester’s other questions.

“As the BLM considers a major reorganization, there is no reason for this effort to be led by an Acting Director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency,” the Senators continued. “Keeping Mr. Pendley atop the BLM is an affront to all Americans who believe in the balanced, multiple use and sustained yield mission of the agency. While Mr. Pendley has said that “an oft-repeated truth…[is] to call the federal government the ‘world’s worst neighbor,” we can think of no worse neighbor than one who spent the last thirty years trying to burn down the neighborhood. The American people deserve better.”

You can read the Senator’s letter to Bernhardt HERE.