New Mexico’s congressional delegation commended the withdrawal of William Pendley’s nomination as director of the Bureau of Land Management but warned the original proposal he take up the post was part of a pattern by the administration of President Donald Trump to dismantle U.S. federal land management.
Democrat U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall joined an effort with other lawmakers earlier this month to challenge Pendley’s nomination, citing his alleged history of siding against the federal government on land management issues.
Heinrich said Pendley, who previously served as acting and deputy director at the BLM, in the past worked to repeal the antiquities act and opposed considering climate change in decision making.
Because of his past record, Heinrich said Pendley was unfit to lead the agency.
"The White House is pulling down the William Perry Pendley nomination because Americans don’t want a zealot in charge of their public lands,” Heinrich said. “President Trump realizes that if Pendley actually had to answer questions about his troubling record through the confirmation process he'd put vulnerable Republicans in the hot seat."
Pendley also advocated for selling federally-owned lands, Heinrich said, which the senator argued should be conserved for the public rather than used for extraction and other privatized activities.
“He has explicitly called on the federal government to sell off millions of acres of the Western landscapes owned by all of us, and has routinely argued against tribal sovereignty,” Heinrich said.
“Pendley's beliefs are antithetical to the very idea of America’s public lands and he is glaringly unqualified to run the Bureau of Land Management.”
He said Trump’s use of acting directors at numerous federal agencies such as with Pendley, was a method of circumventing Congress’ role in choosing federal leaders.
"Our success in forcing the Trump administration to withdraw the Pendley nomination is only half the battle. The president has shown he's willing to circumvent Congress and skip the confirmation process by illegally putting people in charge through acting roles,” Heinrich said.
“I join the American people in calling on President Trump to identify a new, qualified candidate for this critical position – one who supports public lands and the mission of the Bureau of Land Management."
Udall alleged Pendley disregarded the needs of Native American and Tribal groups in policy decisions at the BLM, and should not be able to continue at the BLM as acting director following his withdrawal from nomination to lead the Bureau.
“It’s hard to imagine a worse pick for BLM than someone who doesn’t believe in the very idea of conservation, who has a clear history of racism toward Native Americans, and who spearheaded a relocation effort that is a transparent effort to undermine the very agency he would oversee,” Udall said.
“He should not be allowed to continue in this role in an acting, unconfirmed capacity.”
And U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who serves as vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said despite the withdrawal of Pendley’s nomination she was concerned the federal administration would continue its efforts to shrink public lands and offer more for sale to private industry.
“Though this is good news today, we’re still fighting an Administration that wants to cut off large swaths of our public lands to sell them to the highest bidder, line their friends’ pockets, and put polluters over people,” Haaland said.
“I will continue holding this Administration accountable for using their position to enrich themselves, refusing to consult with Tribes, and gutting protections meant to keep our families safe from pollution and preserve our natural treasures.”
Conservation groups also shared their concerns that Pendley’s initial nomination and his ongoing role at the BLM was a sign that Trump and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt were shifting priorities at the BLM away from preservation of public lands and toward industry demands.
Jennifer Rokala, executive director at the Center for Western Priorities called for Pendley’s resignation.
“Withdrawing William Perry Pendley’s nomination confirms he couldn’t even survive a confirmation process run by the president’s allies in the Senate. Keeping him on the job anyway shows the depth of disdain Secretary Bernhardt and President Trump have for the Constitution,” she said.
‘It’s now clear that this track record made his nomination toxic to the Senate, and he is unfit to lead the Bureau of Land Management. Pendley must resign, or Secretary Bernhardt must fire him today.”