Closing Range

Have Fun, Perry!

Here's what's driving the flamethrowing hype about the interim director of the Bureau of Land Management

At the end of July, current Trump Administration Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed retired conservative attorney William Perry Pendley as interim director of the Bureau of Land Management (the other, real BLM).

Wow – not just Big Green, but Big Media, went into paroxysms of progressive pique. Tim Egan, “western columnist” for the always-objective New York Times, wrote about Pendley’s appointment as the “Great Western Public Land Robbery,” as if the CEO of “Philip Morris were put in charge of the American Cancer Society.”

Even the Washington Post (where “Democracy Dies in Darkness”) editorial board thought Pendley’s appointment important enough to write a full editorial terming him an “anti-government zealot.” The Post even gave up its very limited letters space to Flathead eco – professional (and former reporter) Michael Jamison demanding Pendley recuse himself from matters concerning oil leases on the Badger-Two Medicine, because of “blatant conflicts of interest.”

That was the opinion. “Straight news” hasn’t been much more objective. For example, the Washington Post quoted John Leshy as a “former government employee” warning that Pendley could “do much damage in a short period of time.”

Well, Leshy wasn’t just a humble, disinterested “government employee.” In fact, he’s probably a personal blood enemy of Mr. Pendley, as well as an exemplar of the spoils-system revolving door as skillfully practiced by Democrats – and ineptly by Republicans.

Mr. Leshy came directly from the Natural Resources Defense Council to a political appointment in the thankfully one-term Carter Administration – whose Western policies, by the way, triggered the Sagebrush Rebellion that Pendley enthusiastically participated in – as did I to a much lesser degree.

When Carter was booted, Leshy was off to 12 years in the wilds of academia, at Arizona State, until Bill Clinton won the White House away from George H.W. Bush. Then, Leshy became the top attorney at Interior as Solicitor General, where he enjoyed eight years working under, and together with, fellow Grand Canyon Trust board member Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

It’s important to note that former Arizona governor (and 1988 presidential candidate) Babbitt came straight from another environmental group to “public service.”

After his failed presidential run, Babbitt became president of the League of Conservation Voters, because “I always wanted to be president of something,” he said at the time. LCV is most known for its LCV scorecard for politicians, based on various environmental litmus tests.

In 1991, Babbitt wrote the purpose of the Scorecard for LCV members was: “We must identify our enemies and drive them into oblivion” and orchestrated a 50 state “hardball” campaign against the first Bush administration’s environmental policies.

Despite all that, Babbitt was confirmed by the Senate (yes, it was controlled by the Democrats then, but Republicans supposedly control the Senate today) and had eight years at Interior, where he did plenty of damage … that Pendley could, um, fix.

Is there a double standard going on here? Of course. But there’s something else important. All the screaming about Pendley involves an acting, temporary directorship ending September 30.

With two years gone since Donald Trump became President, BLM’s directorship still has not been filled by a Senate-confirmed nominee. Worse, there is a long line of “acting directors” not just at BLM, but other Interior agencies. Other important senior positions still “interim,” unconfirmed and unfilled, leaving career bureaucrats safely leaderless and adrift: Interior solicitor (Mr. Leshy’s old job), U.S. Fish and Wildlife director, National Park Service director, deputy Interior Secretary (current Secretary David Berhardt’s old job under the departed Ryan Zinke).

That’s really not an accident. Besides the Environmental Protection Agency, and part of Agriculture, Interior is where the federal government’s environmental “action” is, governing policy on over a half-billion acres of mostly-Western lands.

Greens, currently unable to directly govern policy, have reverted to saying and doing whatever it takes to prevent “our enemies” from governing anything – until the right people can be rotated back into office, of course. So that’s what’s driving the flamethrowing hype about Mr. Pendley.

All I can say is, I hope my friend Perry Pendley has fun as long as he can.