As someone who spent more than three decades working at the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, I know first-hand the dedication and commitment of BLM employees to follow the agency’s mission to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
It’s not always easy. The myriad of demands from outdoor recreationists, ranchers and energy companies can often be at odds. But I was proud to be part of a team that understood the importance of public lands and the need for a balanced approach in managing those lands. William Perry Pendley has no such understanding and is in no way fit to lead this agency.
For the better part of 30 years, Pendley was on a crusade to degrade, destroy and ultimately delete public lands. As the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, he was on the wrong side of every public lands issue.
In Montana, he tried to dismantle the state’s stream access rights, arguing that wealthy, private landowners should not have to have boats floating through their property, or anglers fishing below the high water mark. He also advocated on behalf of oil and gas interests to destroy vital ecological and cultural values in the Badger-Two Medicine area.
In Utah, he argued against the establishment of Bears Ears National Monument. In Arizona, he represented mining interests that threatened the Grand Canyon. He supported public land trespassers who held an armed standoff and threatened the lives of BLM employees. And he argued vociferously that the American people shouldn’t even have access to federal public lands.
Over the last 12 months, serving as the acting director at the Bureau of Land Management, Pendley has continued to show antipathy for public lands. He released a resource management plan in Montana which allows oil and gas drilling on 91% of some of the finest hunting grounds in the world. In Colorado, he oversaw the release of the Uncompahgre Resource Management plan, which allows 98% of the area to be drilled. He’s offered up oil and gas leases near some of our nation’s most revered landscapes: the Ruby Mountains in Nevada, Canyonlands and Arches in Utah, and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
Last month he proposed opening up more than two-thirds of the nation’s largest piece of public land in Alaska to oil and gas companies. He has also overseen the ill-fated move of the BLM headquarters out West, a move that was designed to weaken the agency. That move has left more than 100 important leadership positions unfilled.
Our public lands are too important to be plundered and discarded. As we have seen during the pandemic, our public lands provide us with recreational opportunities, for healing and for solace. Our public lands help support outdoor recreation businesses and family ranching operations. These lands were designed for all of us – whether we’re hikers, anglers, hunters, campers, birdwatchers, ranchers – and yes energy developers.
These lands must be carefully managed for multiple uses so they will continue to thrive for generations to come. It is a concept that is completely alien to William Perry Pendley.
Mike Penfold is a retired BLM state director and U.S. Forest Service forest supervisor with 50 years experience in public land planning.