Trump's public lands chief refuses to leave his post despite judge's order
Photo: Chris Dillmann / AP
A controversial environmental chief in the Trump administration said he had no intention of leaving his post after a U.S. district judge ruled his term and continued filling the position illegal.
William Perry Pendley, director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), said this week that the judge's decision "has no effect, no effect at all".
Relatives: Trump's public land chief has been struck off under court regulations he was serving illegally
"I have the President's support," he told the Wyoming Powell Tribune. "I have the interior minister's support and my job is to get out there and get things done to get what the president wants to do."
Perry has been director of the BLM since July 2019 when Interior Minister David Bernhardt temporarily authorized him to the post. The BLM manages 248 million acres - or 10.5% of the total land in the US, most of all agencies, mostly in 11 western states and Alaska. It manages public land for conservation, as well as animal viewing and resource extraction, and critics say the Trump administration has prioritized the latter.
President Trump officially proposed Pendley for the post in July 2020, but withdrew the nomination after Congressional Democrats were unanimously against his appointment and some Republicans appeared to have little support because of his marginalized views. Pendley was never confirmed as a BLM director by the Senate.
Two weeks ago, after the Democratic governor of Montana Steve Bullock brought a case alleging that Pendley's service was unconstitutional, US District Judge Brian Morris ruled that Pendley had "served unlawfully" for the past 424 days him to act as director, and suggested that his service decisions during his tenure be discarded or reversed.
The Interior Department said it would appeal Judge Morris' judgment.
In response to Pendley's refusal to vacate his post, Montana Senator Jon Tester accused him of taking power "in the service of his long-held goal to sell our land and enrich his allies."
As a former industry attorney and longtime president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), a litigation organization funded by conservative and industry groups such as the Charles Koch Foundation and Exxon Mobil, Pendley has a deep background in advocacy for extractive industries in public lands.
He made it easy to kill endangered species. The Guardian received a 2017 recording telling a group of right-wing North Carolina activists, "This is why we in the West say" shoot, shovel and shut up "when it comes to spotting endangered species on your property . "
Congress Democrats also expressed concern about his views on social justice and racial inequality. Pendley ridiculed Native American land management practices and dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as a "lie."
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