Lawyer In Favor Of Selling Public Land Now Acting Head Of Bureau Overseeing 245 Million Acres Of Public Land


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Zac Frank/Shutterstock

William Perry Pendley – a former lawyer and ex-official under the Reagan administration, who has written think pieces advocating the sale of public land – has landed a job as the acting head for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This follows a secretarial order signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Monday, just days after Pendley was made Deputy Director of BLM Policy and Programs.

The current administration has made a habit of promoting people to heads of agencies they have attacked in a previous professional life – from Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who heads the EPA to Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a lawyer who worked on behalf of BP Plc during the aftermath of the infamous Deepwater Horizon spill and is now Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). And then there is Pendley's new boss, David Bernhardt, who is himself a former coal lobbyist and now Secretary of the Interior, whose job it is to conserve and manage the nation’s natural resources.


Now, Pendley, who only three years ago wrote the "Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold" in an article for the National Review, will oversee a bureau that is responsible for almost 100 million hectares (250 million acres) of public land – which roughly translates to 10 percent of the US' total land base. Not to mention 283 hectares (700 million acres) of the country's subsurface mineral estate. 

Prior to joining the department last week, Pendley was president of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), a Wyoming-based conservative law firm that focuses on cases relating to federal land management and gun and property rights. According to Polluter Watch, a Greenpeace-backed project, MSLF funding predominantly stems from oil and automobile companies, including Chevron, Exxon, and Ford, while its 2017 Annual Report document discloses a board of directors heavily comprised of current and former employees of mining and fossil fuel companies. Previous lawsuits have seen the company defend oil-gas leases against the department he has just joined. 

Pendley has made it clear that he opposes federal management of public lands and environmental groups, who are all tarnished as "radical" in a Pendley op-ed for The Washington Examiner. On Twitter, he has also railed against the Endangered Species Act (which he calls "a joke"), and climate science, falsely saying "it is political science or junk science, not real science, and it is, as with real science, far from settled!" [Research has confirmed (pretty conclusively) that climate change is very real and largely human-driven. According to the United Nations, we could already be experiencing climate change-related disasters at a rate of once a week.]

According to a spokesperson at the Department of the Interior, Pendley's appointment does not signal a change in policy. “The administration adamantly opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands,” they told The Washington Post