William Perry Pendley is currently the head of the US Bureau of Land Management. Well, maybe. After being nominated to temporarily serve as BLM director in 2019, President Trump formally placed him in that official position in July 2020 — even though the Senate had not approved it, and even though the Senate probably wouldn't approve it because Democrats and Republicans alike are both scared of his extremism.
Here's a little info on Pendley's background, courtesy of The Guardian:
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".
In other words: probably not the guy you want to entrust with protecting 10.5% of US land in the name of conservation, or in dealing with Native American land rights.
So, as the Powell Tribune reports:
In July, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock filed suit, claiming Pendley's service unconstitutional. Bullock asserted that Pendley's extended "acting director" service violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution's Appointments Clause requires the president to nominate, and the Senate then confirm heads of significant federal agencies.
Bullock is a Democrat, who's currently running for Senator. But even Montana's Republican Senator Jon Tester told The Hill that Pendley, "will do anything to maintain power in service of his long-held goal of selling off our lands and enriching his corporate allies."
In September, US district judge Brian Morris ruled that Pendley had indeed "served unlawfully" for at least 424 days, and that his continued occupation of the directorship was indeed illegal. Any actions taken under his leadership would need to be reversed.
Here's how Pendley responded, according to the Powell Tribune:
I have the support of the president. 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 — which means increase recreational opportunities on federal land and to increase opportunities for jobs, so we can [economically] recover back to where we were pre-pandemic,
The Department of the Interior reportedly plans on appealing Judge Morris's ruling. In the meantime, there's a radical right-wing lobbyist illegally occupying a federal leadership position … and there's apparently nothing else that can be done about it.
Side note: it's really confusing trying to research the head of BLM who also spreads terrible racist conspiracy theories about a different BLM.
Trump's public lands chief refuses to leave his post despite judge's order [Cassidy Randall / The Guardian]
Despite federal judge's order, controversial official remains head of BLM [Mark Davis / Powell Tribune]
Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' [Rebecca Beitsch / The Hill]
Image: Public Domain via Bureau of Land Management