Interior Appoints Champion of Giving Americans Access to Public Lands; Environmentalists Outraged

California rancher Nathan Carver drops off bails of hay to feed his herd of beef cattle at the ranch his family has owned for five generations on dirt-brown fields on the outskirts of Delano, in California's Central Valley, on February 3, 2014. At this time of the year normally, the …
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty

Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced this week that William Perry Pendley will be acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a move ranchers and others in the west where the majority of federal land exists see as a positive development.

Environmentalists are critical of Pendley’s appointment because of his belief public lands should be accessible to Americans, including for recreational and ranching purposes as well as oil, gas and mineral production.

According to his biography on Interior’s website Pendley, a native of Wyoming, is a Marine veteran, attorney and worked at DOI under President Ronald Reagan where he worked on minerals and economic policies. He was president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation for three decades.

The Associated Press’ (AP) article about Pendley put a negative spin on his appointment, which will be in place until the Senate confirms a permanent director:

An ardent critic of the federal government who has argued for selling off almost all public lands has been named the Trump administration’s top steward over nearly a quarter-billion federally controlled acres, raising new questions about the administration’s intentions for vast Western ranges and other lands roamed by hunters, hikers, and wildlife.

Pendley, a former midlevel Interior appointee in the Reagan administration, for decades has championed ranchers and others in standoffs with the federal government over grazing and other uses of public lands. He has written books accusing federal authorities and environmental advocates of “tyranny” and “waging war on the West.”

In tweets this summer, Pendley welcomed Trump administration moves to open more federal land to mining and oil and gas development and other private business use, and he has called the oil and gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “an energy, economic, AND environmental miracle!”

AP also reported on a Pew Charitable Trust analysis of six BLM proposed management plans it said “would reduce protections” from opening up new land for mining and oil and gas production and in Alaska could threaten peregrine falcons and the in Montana the westslope cutthroat trout.

“In a letter to the agency, Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources said the management plan for public lands in the southwest corner of the state don’t do enough to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, which is a threatened species, or migrating wildlife,” AP reported.

AP reported that the Western Values Project’s executive director Chris Saeger said in a statement that Pendley’s appointment could men public lands are handed over to the Trump administration’s “special interest allies.”

Phil Hanceford, conservation director with the Wilderness Society told AP the new acting director “strongly suggests the administration is positioning itself to liquidate our shared public lands.”

But Interior denies critics’ charges.

“The Department adamantly opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands,” Interior Press Secretary Molly Block told Breitbart News. “The BLM is mandated by Congress to manage public lands under multiple use and sustained yield principles. When BLM develops resource management plans, which guide how the BLM will manage public land over a period of time, careful consideration is given to a range of resource uses and values — including energy development, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvest, while protecting scientific, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values. BLM always prepares these plans through a collaborative effort where individuals, communities, and governments work together to address common needs and goals within a planning area.”
And there are many who welcome Pendley, including Idaho rancher and County Commissioner Kirk Chandler who told AP he is glad the Trump administration is choosing leaders who will listen to his concerns, including allowing more logging on public lands and thinning forests to prevent wildfires.

“I think it will be a good thing, a real good thing,” Chandler said.

And the editorial board at the Minnesota newspaper the Sentinel also approve of the development:

There has been something of a recent tempest created in Washington, D.C., following the Trump administration announcement that William Perry Pendley has been named acting head of the Bureau of Land Management, an agency that controls 250,000 acres of federal lands. Pendley has been an advocate for ranchers and others in standoffs with the government over the years. He supports opening more federal land to mining and gas development. He would even like to see federal lands sold to citizens.

Conservation groups object. But, so what? Is there only one valid perspective when it comes to federal lands? Is a person not allowed to have the opinion that citizens, not government, should own these lands? Why? Reading press reports on the situation, one has the impression that there is an environmental “gospel” according to some that the rest of us must believe or be labeled infidels. How dare anyone consider selling public lands, or allowing anyone to tap the minerals they hold?

We do not believe every acre of public lands, primarily in the West, must be sold or opened up to production. But we do believe that the first choice should be to turn over as much federal land as possible to the public. Why does the government need all that land? We live in nation founded on private property rights and free enterprise. We wish Pendley good luck in advocating for major changes.

The Elko Daily Free Press in Nevada took a slightly different spin on reporting on Pendley by highlighting the five books he as written, which include: Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why it Matters Today; Warriors for the West: Fighting Bureaucrats, Radical Groups, and Liberal Judges on America’s Frontier; It Takes a Hero: The Grass Roots Battle Against Environmental Oppression; War on the West: Government Tyranny on America’s Great Frontier; and Summary Judgement: 25 Years of Condemning Treachery, Tyranny and Injustice.

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