BLM acting director, now serving illegally, refuses to step aside

Last month, a federal judge ordered William Perry Pendley to vacate his post at the Bureau of Land Management. The decision had "no impact whatsoever" on his position, Pendley said.
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William Perry Pendley, appointed as acting director of the BLM last July on a temporary basis, has served illegally for more than a year, a federal judge ruled.

William Perry Pendley, appointed as acting director of the BLM last July on a temporary basis, has served illegally for more than a year, a federal judge ruled.

The Bureau of Land Management's controversial acting director, William Perry Pendley, has refused to comply with a judge's order requiring that he step down from his post at the agency—a job he has held unlawfully for more than 400 days. 

Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court of Montana ruled against Pendley last month in a case brought by Montana governor Steve Bullock, stating that Pendley's "ascent to acting BLM director did not follow any of the permissible paths set forth by the U.S. Constitution." His unconfirmed appointment violates the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Morris found, which limits how long a temporary official can fill a vacant federal position without Senate approval.

Now Pendley, who was appointed by interior secretary David Bernhardt in July 2019 to lead the BLM on a "temporary" basis, has said he won't leave.

“I have the support of the president,” Pendley told the Wyoming Powell Tribune in an interview last week. “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.”

The interior department has indicated plans to appeal Morris’s decision ordering Pendley out of the BLM.

For years, Pendley has drawn widespread criticism for his denial of climate change and his unconventional stance on public land management. In 2016, he expressed his belief that “the founding fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold"—a view reflected in his decisions as acting BLM director. Over the past year, the agency has offered hundreds of leases to oil and gas companies on lands designated as wildlife habitat. Pendley has also mocked court decisions protecting Native Americans' religious rights (captured below) and characterized the Black Lives Matter movement as built on a “terrible lie."

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