BLM acting director stays at post despite lawsuit

(Matthew Brown | AP file photo) U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William "Perry" Pendley in Oct., 2019.

Grand Junction, Colo. • The acting director of the Bureau of Land Management will remain in his position after the U.S. Department of the Interior extended his tenure despite a lawsuit disputing the appointment.

William Perry Pendley has served as the federal bureau’s acting director since July by order of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, The Daily Sentinel reported.

Pendley's title within the agency is deputy director of policy and programs. President Donald Trump has not nominated anyone to serve as bureau director, which would be subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Bernhardt delegated authority over the agency to Pendley and has issued repeated, monthly extensions. The most recent extension lasted through Friday.

Bernhardt did not issue a new extension this week for Pendley, who remains at the bureau's helm based on updated interior department succession orders, department spokesman Conner Swanson said.

No expiration date applies to the succession order and Bernhardt did not issue a written order on the extension.

"The leadership of the BLM will not change," Swanson said Friday.

Pendley has overseen relocation of most of the agency's jobs from Washington to various locations in the Western U.S., including its new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Western Watersheds Project filed a lawsuit last month over Bernhardt's ongoing appointments of Pendley and David Vela as the head of the National Park Service in acting capacities.

The lawsuit contends in part that the appointments violate the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Pendley and Vela have served longer than a 210-day limit for acting directors under the act and are not qualified to serve under the section Bernhardt relied on to appoint them, the lawsuit says.

“They’re just doing these delegations, redelegations, these successions, anything to avoid complying with the laws,” said Peter Jenkins, senior counsel of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.