A significant development on Friday afternoon in the continuing controversy over the Trump administration’s plan to “reorganize” the Bureau of Land Management–Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is now calling for the removal of Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley:
Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet led a letter with 11 additional Senate Democrats urging U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to terminate William Perry Pendley’s authority as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In the letter, the senators outline their concerns with Pendley’s advocacy for the widespread sale of public lands, his efforts to roll back key conservation laws, and his long-held disregard for the important role BLM plays in managing our public lands.
“As the BLM considers a major reorganization, there is no reason for this effort to be led by an Acting Director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency. Keeping Mr. Pendley atop the BLM is an affront to all Americans who believe in the balanced, multiple use and sustained yield mission of the agency,” wrote the senators.
“The American people deserve better. Therefore, we request that you rescind Mr. Pendley’s authority as Acting Director of the BLM and that the President nominate a BLM Director with a true commitment to our public lands and waters,” the letter continues.
As we’ve been observing over the course of several months now, the backlash from environmentalists as well as career employees of the BLM against the planned move of the bureau’s headquarters to Grand Junction has altered the political calculus of what was at one point a no-brainer choice for local Democrats to support bringing the power and prestige of an agency headquarters to our state. Bennet originally came out in support of moving the BLM back in 2017, and Gov. Jared Polis has similarly been in support even while working to clean up oil and gas drilling across the state via Senate Bill 19-181.
At this point, however, the known political agenda of acting BLM director Pendley, along with that of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and of course President Donald Trump himself, is inimical to any goal Democrats have of protecting public lands inside Colorado or elsewhere from unwise development. However Bennet and other local Democrats may feel in the abstract about moving the BLM “Out West,” doing so under the current management is not going to result in Democratic priorities with regard to public lands being respected in the process.
If this is the beginning of an about-face, it’s a welcome development.