Bennet, Fellow Western Dems Want Acting BLM Director Pushed Out ‘Immediately’

Election 2020 Michael Bennet
Jose Luis Magana/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks during the Climate Forum at Georgetown University, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Washington.

Sen. Michael Bennet and 11 other Democratic senators believe William Perry Pendley should no longer be acting Bureau of Land Management director. They wrote to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Thursday to request Pendley’s authority be terminated “immediately.”

The senators note Pendley’s past writings and advocacy of selling off of public lands as the source of their concerns. They also note that the BLM is undertaking a major reorganization and “there is no reason for this effort to be led by an acting director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency.”

An Interior spokesperson said that Sec. Bernhardt has “every confidence in Mr. Pendley's commitment to carry out the priorities of this administration for the betterment of the American people.”  

The original order that named Pendley as the acting leader expires Sept. 30, 2019.

The senators who signed onto the letter include Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jon Tester of Montana, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and both Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California.

At an early September House hearing on the proposed BLM move to Colorado, Pendley sought to distance himself from his previous writings. He said as a member of the Trump administration he would follow President Donald Trump’s and the Secretary of the Interior’s strong support of public lands. 

Pendley said as much in an August radio interview where he stated as a former Marine he “understand[s] and know[s] how to follow orders.”

If Pendley continues as acting head of the agency, he listed five dozen former clients, employers and financial interests that would trigger his recusal from decision making. They include the American Exploration & Mining Association, the Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.