Bennet, other Democratic senators call for ouster of acting BLM head

PROMO Outdoors - Red Mountain Creek Colorado Water Stream River - iStock - Aaron Hawkins
Published Sunday, September 29, 2019

By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, (D-CO), along with other Democratic senators this week urged U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to terminate William Perry Pendley as acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 

Bennet along with 11 Democratic senators sent a letter to Bernhardt Thursday urging him to revoke Pendley's authority as acting head of the federal agency that manages over 245 million acres of public land. 

An Interior spokesperson told The Center Square: "Secretary Bernhardt has every confidence in Mr. Pendley's commitment to carry out the priorities of this Administration for the betterment of the American people." 

"Mr. Pendley's service ensures uninterrupted management and execution of public duties," they added.

The BLM also sent a letter, obtained by The Center Square, to Bennet and the other senators Friday defending Pendley.

"Mr. Pendley has shown that he is both well-suited and uniquely qualified to perform this important leadership role as we await the nomination of a permanent Bureau Director," said Casey Hammond, the Interior's deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management.

Pendley, who was promoted to acting director by Bernhardt in July, has faced criticism for his past comments that critics deem hostile to public lands. 

The BLM is slated to move its headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo. from Washington, D.C., a move supported by Bennet, who's running for president. The move has also been criticized by environmental and public land advocacy groups.

"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," the senators wrote in the letter. "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." 

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Verm., who are also running for president, have said they would ban fracking on public and private lands. Bennet maintains that he supports natural gas development, even on public lands.

Energy development on public lands is one of the pillars of multiple use, according to the Public Lands Council. 

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jeff Merkley. D-Ore., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. 

Pendley this week released a list of dozens of recusals containing energy companies, localities and individuals, E&E News reported.

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