Montanans are not fools. Hunters, anglers and outdoorspeople, we know how to spot a wolf – especially when they are in wolf’s clothing. New Bureau of Land Management head William Perry Pendley is fooling no one. He’s not even wearing a disguise.
Earlier generations warned us to be on the lookout. They saw robber barons ruin our rivers and poison our politics. The Trump administration’s decision to install Pendley, an unabashed advocate for the sale of our public lands, as the leader of our largest public land management agency is a grave threat that deserves our attention.
Pendley founded a law firm, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, with a mission to undermine our public lands system. He has authored numerous books and articles that leave no doubt about his agenda. Even more troublingly, in recent months Pendley has been defending controversial petroleum leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, much to the chagrin of Montana’s Blackfeet people and sportsmen and women everywhere. His appointment to Interior Department leadership is a clear shot at all public land owners – and takes a sharp jab at Montanans. It is a disingenuous move by an administration that has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to conserving our public lands. Do they take us for fools?
Sen. Jon Tester already has strongly criticized Pendley’s appointment and called for his removal. Now is the time for Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte to follow suit. It’s time for them stand up for the people of Montana and our public lands birthright in the face of a man who aims to rob us of this legacy. There is no middle ground for our congregational delegation when it comes to Pendley. This is the robber baron we were warned about.
Montana bears the scars of people like William Perry Pendley. Our state has grown from them, and they have made Montanans stronger and smarter. Together we are making our voices heard. Broad coalitions of citizens are uniting to support our lands and waters, fish and wildlife, and outdoor traditions. Daines and Gianforte have previously stated their support of public lands – and their opposition to their being sold off to the highest bidder. The need for us to step up and defend our public lands heritage has never been greater.
Earlier this year, the country witnessed incredible progress and support for a massive piece of public lands legislation that passed in the House and Senate by overwhelming bipartisan majorities. The message from the people – and Congress – could not be clearer, and it directly contradicts what Pendley stands for. His appointment is a rebuke of the progress forged by hard work on both sides of the aisle.
Actions speak louder than words. It’s time for Montana’s entire delegation to come together and ensure the removal of Pendley from the BLM. Montanans and public land owners across the United States are watching and waiting.
Ryan Busse, of Kalispell, is chair of the North American board of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.