BLM Chief Asked to Resign by Coalition of 91 Groups Who Say His 'Actions Betray' Agency's Mission

A coalition representing 91 groups sent a letter Monday to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt demanding that acting Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Chief William Perry Pendley resign or be removed from his position.

The coalition of groups with interest in public lands demands that Bernhardt relieve Pendley of his position if he does not voluntarily resign. The coalition claims Pendley's "actions betray" BLM's mission, while declaring him unfit to lead the agency.

"We, the ninety-one undersigned conservation, sportsmen, public interest, and wildlife advocacy organizations, representing over 3.9 million Americans," the coalition writes in the letter, "call for the immediate resignation or removal of William Perry Pendley from his position of Deputy Director for Policy and Programs of the Bureau of Land Management, 'exercising the authority of the Director.'"

William Perry Pendley
William Perry Pendley, Deputy Director for Policy and Programs and acting head of the Bureau of Land Management has been asked to step down. Bureau of Land Management

The coalition complains that Pendley is serving as BLM acting director despite not being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, having instead been given the role as a temporary assignment in July. His present stint is set to expire on Friday but is likely to be renewed. It is unknown if President Donald Trump plans to nominate Pendley for the position permanently, which would open the position up the Senate confirmation process.

BLM headquarters are moving closer to Pendley's Colorado home at his behest in 2020, from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado. The coalition criticized the move, noting that a number of bureau employees who can't or won't make the move will lose their jobs while insisting the "demoralizing" move will undermine "the operational effectiveness of the agency."

Pendley formerly served as president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, a group advocating for the privatization of federal land which is currently engaged in a legal battle with BLM. Pendley recused himself in the case when he took his position, along with a pledge to not deal with dozens of other groups, companies and individuals that could pose potential conflicts.

colorado national monument
The Bureau of Land Management is set to move from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, which is located close to the Colorado National Monument, pictured here. Getty

"Regardless of Pendley's recusal from any involvement in this litigation, his position at the head of the BLM is a conflict of interest, or at the very least, a public perception of the same that undermines his credibility and authority to direct the Bureau," wrote the coalition.

"The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold," Pendley wrote in a January 2016 opinion article in the National Review. The coalition suggests that this position is a conflict of interest for someone in charge of public lands.

The letter also objects to Pendley characterizing wild horses as the greatest threat to western lands in October, suggesting that issues related to climate change likely pose a much greater threat. Pendley has indicated that he believes the notion of climate change being caused by human activity is based on "junk science," disagreeing with the position of at least 97 percent of scientists who are experts in the field.

News flash: it is political science or junk science, not real science, and it is, as with real science, far from settled! Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science

— Wm Perry Pendley (@Sagebrush_Rebel) May 28, 2019

Pendley's removal by Bernhardt seems unlikely, as the Department of the Interior leader placed him in the role and has given no indication that he is dissatisfied with Pendley. A department spokesperson told The Hill that the letter was "laughable" and claimed that coalition was comprised of "extremists." The long list of entities making up the coalition includes clothing outfitter Patagonia, the Sierra Club, Oceanic Preservation Society and the Endangered Species Coalition.

"For this group of environmental extremists to call themselves sportsmen and conservationists is as laughable as this letter," the spokesperson told the outlet. "Mr. Pendley brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department and is committed to carrying out the Administration's priorities for the betterment of the American people."

Newsweek reached out to BLM for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.