Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Move to Block William Pendley’s Illegal Leadership at BLM: Don’t Tread on Our Public Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following William Perry Pendley’s refusal to follow an order from a Federal district court judge to vacate his position as de facto Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined four of their Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation to immediately resolve the matter by barring the Department of Justice from appealing Pendley’s case.  The court has found that Pendley was illegally installed in his position.

“Our public lands—which make immeasurable contributions to the spirit and economies of communities throughout Oregon and the country—belong to all of us,” said Merkley. “If we want to ensure that future generations of Americans can enjoy them, we have a sacred responsibility to protect these lands from degradation. That means we have to fight tooth and nail to ensure that our Bureau of Land Management isn’t overtaken by unelected, radical bureaucrats who are more interested in lining the pockets of fossil fuel executives than protecting our natural treasures.”

“Extremists fixated on benefiting special interests instead of protecting the public interest should have no place in government,” Wyden said. “That fundamental principle takes on special importance when it comes to public lands that Americans of all ages should be able to count on for recreation and employment.  And I’ll keep battling to ensure the Bureau of Land Management and any other federal agency stays focused on public priorities, not private deals.” 

The Public Lands Leadership Act, which is cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), would prohibit the Department of Justice from defending Pendley in Bullock v. United States Bureau of Land Management, the lawsuit brought by Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Last month, Judge Brian Morris of the Federal District Court of Montana ruled in favor of Governor Bullock, ordering Pendley to be removed as Acting Director of BLM, and he issued a second ruling earlier this week invalidating three land-use plan revisions in Montana because they were approved under Pendley’s illegal tenure.

The Department of Interior has indicated they intend to appeal the rulings and Pendley has claimed that the ruling will not affect his role at BLM, which he began in 2019.

Before Pendley’s nomination to lead BLM was rescinded, Merkley and Wyden joined a group of Western Democratic Senators in calling for an expedited Senate confirmation hearing to force Pendley to answer for his career of anti-public land activism before the American people. Pendley’s nomination sparked serious concerns over his repeated calls for the federal government to sell off public lands, demanding he explain his past ethical violations regarding a coal leasing program and calling on him to recuse himself from his many conflicts of interest, including the Badger Two-Medicine case.

Pendley previously ran the anti-public lands group Mountain States Legal Foundation, served as counsel for Solenex LLC, the firm seeking to restore illegally-issued drilling leases in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area, and has encouraged armed standoffs between federal law enforcement officials and ranchers.

Text of the Public Lands Leadership Act can be found here.