The Bureau of Land Management has a new acting director: William Perry Pendley. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the order on Monday.
Pendley is deputy director of policy and programs at the agency, a job he started two weeks ago. Until last December, he was head of the Mountain States Legal Foundation in the Denver suburb Lakewood, a conservative legal foundation that focused on protecting property rights.
In his writings and at the foundation, he advocated for selling off the public lands he is now in charge of protecting.
After hearing about the appointment, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet decried the decision.
"The BLM is an important partner managing millions of acres of public lands in our state, including places like Browns Canyon National Monument,” he said. “Handing the reins of the agency over to someone who, over the course of their career, has advocated for the widespread sale of public lands is a slap in the face to all Americans.”
Bennet said that the BLM is at a critical juncture after the proposal to move to Grand Junction is under consideration and that, and the agency needs a leader who actually believes in its mission.
A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said that Gardner understands the importance of preserving iconic landscapes in Colorado and across the nation.
“Sen. Gardner is confident that under the leadership of Secretary Bernhardt, public land will remain in public hands. When an individual is selected to fill the BLM director role on a permanent basis, Sen. Gardner looks forward to the thorough nomination process that will follow,” the spokesperson said.
President Donald Trump has not nominated anyone to be BLM director. Instead, the agency has been led by acting directors since the end of the Obama administration. The secretary’s current order names Pendley as acting director through September.
Earlier this month, the agency announced it would be moving many Washington, D.C., jobs to states out west, including moving the headquarters to Grand Junction on Colorado’s Western Slope.