Bureau of Land Management senior official William Perry Pendley: Feds should sell public land, environmentalists want to “destroy” civilization

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

William Perry Pendley, who recently joined the Bureau of Land Management in a senior position, was previously a right-wing commentator who argued that the federal government should sell all of the Western lands that it manages and called his new employer “the world's worst neighbor.” He also frequently attacked environmentalists, claiming that “they don’t believe in human beings” and “are at war with western civilization and seek to remake, if not destroy it.” 

E&E News reported on July 15 that the Bureau of Land Management, which is under the Department of the Interior, appointed Pendley as the deputy director of policy and programs -- the bureau’s “second-highest-ranking political position, behind the director.” Pendley’s new agency manages “public lands for a variety of uses such as energy development, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting while ensuring natural, cultural, and historic resources are maintained for present and future use.” 

On July 20, after the bureau announced that it plans to move its headquarters to Colorado, Bloomberg reported that two former Bureau of Land Management directors say those plans “are an early step toward abolishing the entire agency and transferring millions of acres of federal land to the states. … Interior’s inclination to diminish the federal government’s role in public lands is evident in its decision to hire Pendley, said George Stone, a director at large at the Public Lands Foundation, a BLM employee retirees group that ‘works to keep public lands in public hands,’ according to its website.” 

Media Matters previously documented that in recent months, Pendley has argued on his Twitter account that climate science isn’t real, claimed that the “Endangered Species Act is a joke,” and asked, “How many have died and how many more will die because of diversity and race-based decision making?”

Pendley is the former president of the right-wing group Mountain States Legal Foundation, which has represented clients in cases against environmentalists and the federal government. Jay Tutchton, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife “who has frequently done legal battle with Mountain States,” told E&E News in 2014, “To my knowledge, they have never taken a case where you would expect the outcome to be increased environmental protection. … Their cases seek to roll back environmental protections.” The group has received money from oil companies such as ExxonMobil; a 2007 High Country News profile of the group reported that inside its headquarters, there are “plaques engraved with” the names of “Rocky Mountain family oil companies (Yates, Kennedy, McMurry, Anschutz, Dugan).” 

As a pundit, Pendley has long attacked environmentalists, claiming that the “core” of their movement is that “they don’t believe in human beings,” and radical environmentalists "are at war with western civilization and seek to remake, if not destroy it.” He criticized past Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for saying she hoped there were no climate change deniers in her department, calling it “totally outrageous and extreme.” He also criticized the Bureau of Land Management for purportedly making “the rural West a virtual colony,” referred to the federal government and his current bureau as “the world's worst neighbor,” and argued that the federal government should sell all of its Western lands. 

Here are some of the anti-environmental things that Pendley has pushed over the years. 

Pendley: “The core” of the environmental movement is “they don’t believe in human beings.” During a 2014 speech, Pendley stated: “You can’t understand the battle against fossil fuels without understanding what is at the core of the environmental movement and these environmental extremists. … They don’t believe in human beings. They’re not concerned about human health and well-being.” He similarly said in a 2015 speech that “environmentalists are not concerned about human beings.” 

Pendley complained that agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management “make the rural West a virtual colony.” Pendley wrote in a November 1, 2018, Washington Examiner piece: “Wyoming trial lawyer and 2018 Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Harriet M. Hageman, who grew up on a ranch and tilts swords with the alphabet soup of federal agencies that make the rural West a virtual colony, related battles with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service, among others. There is not just the threat that governments will seize property or regulate it into uselessness, she added; there's the financial burden of federal regulations — $2.1 trillion per year or $14,000 per household. Of course, Congress is to blame.” 

Pendley referred to the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management as “the world's worst neighbor.” In a January 2018 Examiner piece about one of his cases against the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management on behalf of a client, Pendley wrote, “Good neighbors keep their property in a reasonable and safe manner to prevent hazards upon their land from harming their neighbors. Unfortunately, that is not the approach followed by the federal government, which makes it the world's worst neighbor, as a Colorado man discovered.” 

Pendley argued that the federal government should sell all of its Western lands. Pendley penned a 2016 National Review piece titled “The Federal Government Should Follow the Constitution and Sell Its Western Lands” (h/t to HuffPost reporter Chris D'Angelo). Pendley wrote: 

The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold. After all, jurisdiction over real property, that is, property law, was given to the states.

Moreover, westerners who seek authority over BLM and Forest Service land, not including designated wilderness areas or parks and wildlife refuges (after all they are held by the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service) argue that yet another provision mandates a federal duty to dispose of federally managed land: that is, the enforceability of the Enabling Acts under which the states were admitted. Although opponents point to the “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public land lying within” the new state’s boundary language in those Acts, the fact is, the provision was included to protect the clean title of the United States so that the United States could dispose of or sell the public lands.

Today that is a western issue, but in 1829, “the West” was Illinois — where 99.9 percent of the land was federally owned; residents called that “oppressive” and unconstitutional, not unlike what is heard from the American West today. Within a few years, the United States performed its constitutional duty in Illinois where now it owns less than 2 percent of the Land of Lincoln. It is hardly surprising that westerners think they should be treated likewise.

Pendley complained that environmentalists want to turn "everything from the 100th meridian to the Cascades into a park." While talking to the Los Angeles Times in 1993, Pendley complained that the environmental movement’s “objective is to turn everything from the 100th meridian to the Cascades into a park so people can drive through and marvel at how quaint we all look.” 

Pendley praised Trump for rolling back environmental protections. Shortly before he was appointed to his current position, Pendley wrote in a June 1 Washington Examiner piece: “Fortunately, grown-ups are back in charge. President Trump reinstated Reagan’s offering of the entire Outer Continental Shelf, although it is caught up in courtroom battles that will require, as it did with Reagan, the Supreme Court to fix. Trump’s Bureau of Land Management is moving aggressively to allow Westerners to benefit from hydraulic fracturing as have, for example, Pennsylvanians. Finally, President Trump lifted the stacks of regulations that were especially vexatious in a risk-filled industry like oil and gas development.” 

Pendley: “The American West had been victimized” by environmental policies. Pendley stated in an April 2014 speech: “The American West had been victimized by the environmental policies implemented—utterly regardless of their destructive economic and human consequences—during the previous two decades.”

Pendley: “Environmentalists probably believe their own propaganda, regardless how delusional it is.” Pendley told a Washington Examiner columnist in November 2013: “Environmentalists probably believe their own propaganda, regardless how delusional it is. They want a utopian world where they don’t use anything and deprive everyone else of affordable energy so they can’t use anything.”

Pendley criticized past Interior secretary for saying she hopes there aren’t climate deniers in her team, calling her comments “totally outrageous and extreme.” In 2013, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell reportedly told employees that she hopes “there are no climate change deniers in the Department of Interior.” In a 2015 speech, Pendley criticized Jewell’s comment as “totally outrageous and extreme,” comparing it to someone saying that they don’t want to employ someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus. 

Pendley: “Radical environmentalists … are at war with western civilization and seek to remake, if not destroy it.” Pendley wrote a January 10, 1998, piece for the Anchorage Daily News (accessed via Nexis) in which he alleged, “The perversion of good science to achieve extremist policy objectives is the work of three groups”:

The perversion of good science to achieve extremist policy objectives is the work of three groups:

* Radical environmentalists who are at war with western civilization and seek to remake, if not destroy it;

* Federal bureaucrats who seek greater authority -- and the personnel and budget that comes with it -- over the lives of every American; and

* Millions of Americans who are unwilling to take personal responsibility for their problems, believing that others should be held accountable while demanding that the government do something, anything, about the latest crisis, real or imagined, even if it is the wrong thing, doesn't work, or violates legal or constitutional principles.

These groups are aided and abetted by three very liberal entities: 1) the media, which recognizes that bad news, especially news of impending doom, sells; 2) academia, which as the last vestige of the institutional left seeks validation for its published predictions of doom and calls for government-based solutions; and 3) Hollywood, whose elite seeks to assuage its guilt by becoming a spokesperson for leftist causes while insinuating extremist messages into music, movies and television broadcasts.

Since these groups do not represent a majority, they could not succeed without the fact that Americans are woefully ignorant regarding scientific matters and easily panicked; that most politicians lack the courage to proclaim that there is no role for government to play in the latest ''crisis,'' or even more courageously that there is no crisis; and that real scientists, who understand matters scientific, fail to challenge the audacious assertions of the doom and gloom merchants.