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Group Seeks Hearing on Alleged “Constitutional Failure” at BLM

William Perry Pendley is now deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management, after a federal judge ordered him to step down as acting director. (Bureau of Land Management)
William Perry Pendley is now deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management, after a federal judge ordered him to step down as acting director. (Bureau of Land Management)
September 30, 2020

HELENA, Mont. - Defenders of public lands want a hearing in Congress on why William Perry Pendley remained so long as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management without U.S. Senate approval.

On Friday, a federal judge forced Pendley to step down, but he remains at the agency as deputy director and the Interior Department has said it will challenge the ruling.

Aaron Murphy, executive director of Montana Conservation Voters, has sent a letter on behalf of his group, asking Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., to hold a Senate oversight hearing to examine what went wrong.

"You'd think your United States senator, who claims he's a conservation champion, would stand up and say, 'Wait a second. This is wrong.' Of course, Mr. Daines refuses to do that," Murphy said, "because he, like so many others, would rather not upset President (Donald) Trump."

Daines' office has not yet responded to the letter or to a request for comment. This summer, Trump formally nominated Pendley, but withdrew the nomination a few weeks later. Gov. Steve Bullock sued the Interior Department, claiming Pendley's service was unconstitutional, and a federal judge agreed. Bullock is now challenging Daines for his Senate seat this November.

Murphy said conservation groups opposed Pendley's nomination from the start, because he's a former oil-and-gas attorney who has long supported the sale of public lands.

"We have long maintained that a zealot who opposes public lands as much as William Perry Pendley has done in the past has no place being in a position in control of millions of acres of land owned by all of us," Murphy said.

Federal law states that no agency head can serve in an acting capacity longer than 210 days. Pendley was at the helm of the BLM for more than 400 days.

The letter is online at mtvoters.org.

Disclosure: Montana Conservation Voters & Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT