Almost a year after he was first appointed acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), William Perry Pendley is finally set to go before the Senate for a legally mandated confirmation hearing sometime later this year. This seems like a good opportunity to remind you, and hopefully our elected representatives, that Pendley is not up to the job.
To recap, Pendley’s ascent to the top of the BLM began with a shady edit of the bureau’s organization chart, seemingly intended to obscure his authority. When that move came to light, his role shifted to a legally dubious scheme in which his boss, secretary of the interior David Bernhardt, reappointed Pendley, a fellow oil and gas lobbyist, as an acting director every few months. In that position, Pendley is tasked with managing the BLM’s 10,000 employees and 245 million acres of public land.
At the time, Democratic senator Jon Tester of Montana called this arrangement “an end run around the Senate’s responsibility to oversee and confirm federal leadership positions.”
It’s unclear why the Trump administration is finally moving forward with an official nomination. But Pendley’s acting status is currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group.
Why is Pendley so widely reviled? Well, it’s because he has a long history of saying just plain awful stuff in public forums.
Pendley on Systemic Racism
“Michael Brown never raised his hands in surrender and cried, ‘Hands up; Don’t shoot.’ We know the political movement spawned August 9, 2014, Black Lives Matter, was built on that terrible lie—a lie the mainstream media perpetrated, that cowardly politicians, fearful of saying ‘all lives matter,’ emboldened, a lie that spread like cancer through inner cities endangering men and women in blue and the citizens who look to them for protection,” Pendley wrote in a 2017 op-ed for the Washington Examiner condemning the Black Lives Matter movement. He also connected Black Lives Matter to a conspiracy theory around the John F. Kennedy assassination in the same piece.
Pendley on Immigration
“Illegal immigration is spreading like a cancer,” Pendley wrote in a 2007 fundraising letter. “Partly this is because Mexico and some other governments promote and encourage illegal immigration into our country.”
And, in a blog post from 2006, Pendley listed a series of problems plaguing the U.S.: “Violent crime—including dangerous gangs, over-crowded schools, the appearance of diseases once vanquished from the western world, escalating hospital costs, and an overwhelming demand for government services!” Then he pinned them on immigration. “These are the new problems being faced by small, cash-strapped cities and towns all across America. The source: illegal immigrants.”
Pendley on Non-Christian Faiths
Here’s a video of Pendley speaking at a GOP event in 2009, in which he mocks Native American holy places.
Pendley wrote this tweet last year, linking to an anti-Muslim propaganda outlet.
And Pendley also criticized a Nevada court for failing to consider “Judeo-Christian” interests in a case about Native American faiths, writing: “The Nevada court’s holding with regard to the unique status of American Indian religion and its blending of history, culture, and religion ignores that other Americans celebrate faiths that have rich histories and are part of their culture and the culture of this country. Judeo-Christian religion, for example, imbued every aspect of the American culture and history. Moreover, even if American Indian religion were unique, that uniqueness does not exempt it from the application of an Establishment Clause that has been applied to every other religious faith.”
Pendley on LGBTQ Education
In 2019, Pendley authored an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, making the argument that LGBTQ awareness doesn’t belong in public schools. In it, he wrote: “The videos are nothing more than propaganda by activists with a radical political agenda using ‘catchy jingles and talking teddy bears’ to indoctrinate children who are barely more than toddlers, argues the parents of three Superior Elementary students. That agenda, which the activists themselves characterize as ‘queering the classroom,’ means using ‘every poster, every topic, every book, every test question’ to escape oversight by parents and to inculcate children with their views.”
Pendley on Climate Change
“Despite the total absence of credible scientific evidence, the media is convinced and is attempting to convince us that we have global warming, an ozone hole, and acid rain, and that it is all man’s fault,” Pendley said in a 1992 speech to the Heritage Foundation.
Pendley has also tweeted multiple times to attack climate activist Greta Thunberg, comparing climate change to unicorns “because neither exists” and calling climate science “junk.”
Pendley on Public Lands
“Sell all BLM lands E. of Miss,” Pendley wrote in a note in 1981, during his time with the Reagan administration. While that was never acted on, the next line in that note did become policy: “All Dpt agencies id 5% suitable not nec. for sale.” In June of 1982, Pendley’s then boss, interior secretary James Watt, announced that the federal government would sell 5 percent of public lands, some 35 million acres. However, after much controversy, that sale never came to fruition.
In 2017, writing about policies for National Review that would eventually shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments, Pendley called then interior secretary Ryan Zinke “a rookie” for failing to recommend the reduction of more monuments. He also said that the Antiquities Act, which enables presidents to protect particularly sensitive public lands, is “blatantly illegal” and called for its repeal.
Perhaps Pendley’s most famous words were written in a 2016 piece for National Review, in which Pendley argued, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.”