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Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona is among the public lands which could be threatened by the appointment of William Perry Pendley to oversee the Bureau of Land Management. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr/cc)

'Worst Possible Person': 300+ Groups Demand Senate Reject Trump's Pick to Manage US Public Lands

"When a nominee is clearly unfit for a position, it is the Senate's constitutional and moral duty to reject the nomination."

Andrea Germanos

Over 300 groups on Monday called on the Senate to reject President Donald Trump's pick to manage nation's public lands, pointing to William Perry Pendley's decades-long public record of extremist views and actions as evidence he is "abjectly unfit" to hold the office.

The demand from the civil rights, environmental, tribal, and immigrant advocacy groups came in a letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"William Perry Pendley comes from the ideological fringes of society and is a racist with values that are deeply out of touch with the mainstream, including selling the very lands he's charged with managing. He's the worst possible person you could conjure to be a leading steward of our shared public lands," Dan Hartinger, National Monuments Campaign director at The Wilderness Society, said in a Monday statement.

William Perry Pendley
Trump is seeking to make Pendley director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the Interior Department. The president made the formal announcement in June, though Pendley has been serving—to the outrage of progressive groups—as acting director of BLM since July 2019.

"His inflammatory rhetoric and actions opposing virtually all issues of social justice and diversity including targeting native communities, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color should alone be disqualifying for anyone seeking the responsibility of managing a taxpayer-funded agency with a diverse workforce," the groups including Defenders of Wildlife, Indigenous Women Rising, NAACP, and United We Dream wrote.

"Yet, Mr. Pendley adds to these disqualifications with radical anti-conservation positions, a deeply held belief antithetical to the agency's mission that public lands should be privatized, virtually unprecedented conflicts of interest and ethical issues, a history of supporting anti-government extremists, and a track record of dismantling the very agency he is tasked with managing," the letter adds.

The groups reference a number of "troubling views and actions" that include Pendley's "radical anti-science and anti-conservation positions" such as his repeated denials of "basic science," repeated calls for the selloff of public lands, and belittling of environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act.

Pendley has "unprecedented conflicts of interest and a documented history of ethical lapses," the letter adds, citing a "17-page recusal list that touches on nearly every aspect of the agency's mission with a particular focus on clients engaged in extractive activities on federal lands."

Additional concerns stem from Pendley's "history of sympathizing with anti-government and anti-public lands extremists [that] undermines the safety of the employees he is responsible for managing and his tenure with the agency has been marked with a historic dismantling of its staff."

Further disqualifying actions include "Pendley's long history of inflammatory statements and opposition to diversity efforts," the groups wrote, referencing his mocking of Indigenous religious beliefs, dismissal of environmental justice as an "imaginary issue," and comparison of undocumented immigrants to cancer.

"When a nominee is clearly unfit for a position, it is the Senate's constitutional and moral duty to reject the nomination. Mr. Pendley is profoundly unfit to lead the BLM in any capacity and the Senate must swiftly and unequivocally reject his nomination," the letter says.

Given Pendley's background, the decision lawmakers must make is clear, says Hilary Shelton, senior VP for policy and advocacy and director of the Washington Bureau of NAACP.

"The Senate faces a moral choice: confirm a bigoted and divisive extremist or stand in solidarity with the American people who want our government and our public lands accessible to all," she said. "We oppose Pendley's nomination and call on our elected officials to reject him immediately."

The committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on Pendley's nomination.

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