Prohibiting Justice Department Advocacy to Protect the Unlawful Tenure of William Perry Pendley

WASHINGTON, D.C.— New legislation from U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) will affirm the critical role of Congress in overseeing the Bureau of Land Management by barring the Department of Justice from advocating to protect the unlawful tenure of William Perry Pendley as the agency’s de facto leader. The Public Lands Leadership Act of 2020 was introduced by Tester and co-sponsoring Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) after Pendley and the Department of Interior openly defied a judge’s ruling that ousted him from the top post at the agency because he had unlawfully served for 424 days without Senate confirmation as required by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and the U.S. Constitution.

“William Perry Pendley has thumbed his nose at a federal judge who ruled that he had been illegally serving as acting director of the agency that overseas 245 million acres of public lands. This legislation ensures that not a dime of taxpayer money will be spent by the federal government to protect Mr. Pendley’s position or the illegal decisions he made in it,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “It is time for the Senate to stop the administration from subjecting us to any more of the administration’s illegal approach to managing our public lands.”

Earlier this month, the National Wildlife Federation and 59 other conservation organizations called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to retract all management plans, decisions, rulemakings, and regulations that were influenced by Pendley since those were made while he was illegally leading the agency. Last Friday, the federal judge who ordered Pendley’s ouster also ruled that three Montana land management plans that Pendley approved were invalid.

Pendley began serving as the unofficial head of the Bureau of Land Management in July 2019. President Trump nominated him to become the director in July of this year, but was quickly forced to withdraw the nomination after a public outcry. Pendley has a long record of supporting the sale and transfer of public lands and of making racist and inflammatory statements about African Americans, Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

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