Trump's public lands chief refuses to leave his post despite judge's order
A controversial environment chief in the Trump administration has said he has no intention of leaving his post after a US district court judge deemed his tenure and ongoing occupation of the position illegal.
William Perry Pendley, head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), said this week that the judge’s ruling “has no impact, no impact whatsoever”.
Related: Trump's public lands chief axed after court rules he was serving unlawfully
“I have the support of the president,” he told the Wyoming Powell Tribune. “I have the support of the secretary of the interior and my job is to get out and get things done to accomplish what the president wants to do.”
Perry has served as director of the BLM since July 2019, when the interior secretary, David Bernhardt, temporarily authorized him to the post. The BLM manages 248m acres – or 10.5% of all land in the US, the most of any agency, mostly in 11 western states and Alaska. It manages public lands for conservation as well as livestock gazing and resource extraction, and critics say the Trump administration has prioritized the latter.
President Trump formally proposed Pendley for the post in July 2020, but withdrew the nomination after congressional Democrats indicated unanimous opposition to his appointment, and some Republicans seemed unlikely to support him owing to his fringe views. Pendley has never been confirmed by the Senate to serve as BLM director.
After Montana’s Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, brought a case claiming that Pendley’s service was unconstitutional, US district judge Brian Morris ruled two weeks ago that Pendley had “served unlawfully” for the last 424 days, prohibited him from acting as director and suggested that his decisions during his tenure be thrown out or reversed.
The interior department said it would appeal against Judge Morris’s ruling.
In response to Pendley refusing to vacate his post, the Montana senator Jon Tester accused him of a power grab “in service of his long-held goal of selling off our lands and enriching his corporate allies”.
As a former industry attorney and longtime president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), a litigation organization funded by conservative and industry groups including the Charles Koch Foundation and Exxon Mobil, Pendley boasts a deep background of legal advocacy for extractive resource industries on public lands.
He has made light of killing endangered species. The Guardian obtained a 2017 recording in which he told a group of North Carolina rightwing activists, “This is why out west we say ‘shoot, shovel and shut up’ when it comes to the discovery of endangered species on your property.”
Congressional Democrats also expressed concern with his views on social justice and racial inequality. Pendley has mocked Native American land management practices and dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as based on a “lie”.