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Tester calls for Pendley’s removal as acting BLM director; cites stance on public lands

Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday called for the removal of William Pendley as acting director of the Bureau of Lands Management, billing him as an activist who’s looking to sell off the nation’s public lands to the highest bidder.

In a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Tester said Pendley’s history as an opponent of public lands and his ties to the oil and gas industry made him the wrong leader of an agency charged with managing the nation’s public lands.

“Acting Director Pendley has a long history of publicly calling for the federal government to sell off the very lands he now oversees with no regard for public input or congressional approval,” Tester said.

Public lands advocates have grown more vocal in calling for Pendley’s dismissal as acting director of the BLM. Among other things, they note his ties to the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a group opposed to public lands.

Pendley also served as counsel for Solenex LLC, which is pushing to restore drilling leases in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area of Montana. He also has encouraged armed standoffs between federal officers and ranchers opposed to public lands and public access, Tester said.

Tester’s letter comes the same week the Senate is expected to vote on a sweeping public lands bill that would permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Pendley was appointed to the position without Senate confirmation.

“If President Trump believes Acting Director Pendley should oversee the 245 million acres of public lands the BLM manages, he should formally nominate him so Pendley can be held accountable for his views,” Tester wrote. “Absent that, Acting Director Pendley should be removed or resign from this position immediately.”