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CO Conservationists Urge Senate to Reject Pendley for BLM Post

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Independence Monument Overlook is one the scenic canyons found at the Colorado National Monument, part of the state's 22 million acres of public lands. (BLM/Flickr)
Independence Monument Overlook is one the scenic canyons found at the Colorado National Monument, part of the state's 22 million acres of public lands. (BLM/Flickr)
July 14, 2020

DENVER -- Colorado conservation groups are calling on the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination of William Perry Pendley for director the federal Bureau of Land Management. They say Pendley, who has been acting head of the BLM for the last year, has a history of promoting the sale of public lands.

Pendley previously was president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Suzanne O'Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, said his ultraconservative, anti-government values make him unqualified for the job.

"His philosophy over 30-plus years has been very consistent, it's held firm and it's not favoring federal management of public lands," O'Neill said. "He believes they should be in private hands."

In a letter to senators, the National Wildlife Federation and its affiliates in 12 western states called for lawmakers to vote against the nomination.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt touted Pendley's years in federal land management as ample qualifications to hold the position. But O'Neill said since coming to the BLM, Pendley has single-mindedly advocated for the sale of oil-and-gas leases and has neglected other aspects of the agency's mission.

"You've got energy, you've got grazing, you've got recreation, wildlife conservation, etcetra. And it's a difficult balancing act," she said. "But the leader needs to really believe in balancing, and have that messaging flow through to the state directors and others."

O'Neill said her biggest misgiving regarding Pendley is a list of 60 former clients he submitted before taking the interim job. Although he promises to recuse himself from dealing with any of them, she said they pose an insurmountable barrier to his being able to evenhandedly perform his duties.

"How can you be an effective leader when you have so many conflicts of interest?" She said. "We're looking for balance and just can't fathom how someone with that track record, philosophy and conflicts can bring balance at this very important time."

O'Neill said if Pendley is confirmed, Colorado's 22 million acres of public lands would be in danger of disappearing. Senators have not yet scheduled a vote on the nomination.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - CO