on Friday nominated William Perry Pendley, who has controversially served as the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for months, to lead the agency.
Pendley is also a controversial figure to lead the bureau tasked with managing federal lands because he has previously advocated for selling them off.
A White House statement announcing Pendley’s nomination as BLM director said that the official “has worked to increase recreational opportunities on and access to our Nation’s public lands, heighten concern for the impact of wild horses and burros on public lands, and increase awareness of the Bureau’s multiple-use mission.”
However, conservationists were quick to criticize the nomination, saying Pendley’s record on public lands issues makes him the wrong person for the job.
In a statement Friday, Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said that the Senate “should quickly hold a nomination hearing for Mr. Pendley, so Western senators can go on the record about whether an extremist and long-time opponent of America’s public lands should be in charge of the agency he has spent an entire career trying to undermine.”
“Any member of Congress who says they support the outdoors and public lands cannot in good conscience vote to approve this nomination,” Rokala added.
The nomination came amid a lawsuit over Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s repeated temporary extensions of Pendley’s role as acting head of the bureau. Pendley was first named its acting head in July 2019.
The lawsuit argues that it was illegal for the government to continue to keep Pendley in his temporary role for longer than the 210-day maximum set by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
Environmentalists have also criticized Pendley for his 17-page recusal list detailing ties to a number of industries that could benefit from increased access to public lands. He has also overseen the relocation of the agency’s headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Colorado, resulting in the loss of more than half the staff slated to move.
Prior to the lawsuit filed last month, Bernhardt repeatedly extended Pendley’s time at the helm of the agency for a month or several months at a time.
However, the last time an order expired, the department said it would allow Pendley to continue in his role through “updates succession orders,” but refused to explain what that meant or provide documentation of the orders, prompting additional scrutiny from outside groups.
Bernhardt on Friday praised the nomination, saying that Pendley is “doing a great job, including acquiring more than 25,000 acres of public land for expanded recreational access.”
Meanwhile, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), one of the groups behind the lawsuit, expressed opposition to the nomination in a statement to The Hill.
“Pendley has a long record of opposing the very existence of the public lands he now oversees,” said PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse. “He may be the perfect choice for Donald Trump, but he is a terrible choice for those who seek a higher standard of environmental ethics and integrity.”