Pendley and Public Lands

It’s troubling that the Trump administration would nominate a person to oversee our public lands who has so little regard for them

By Rich Moy

As someone who has dedicated his career of nearly a half century to the management of our natural resources – at both the international and state levels – I have a keen sense of just how valuable our public lands are to our economy, heritage and way of life.

I shot my first elk in 1960 at age 16 on public lands in the Bitterroot. This fond memory and so many others throughout my life involve spending time hunting, fishing and camping with my father and brother, and then later on, my own family, all on public lands.

It’s one of few issues that all Montanans agree on: Public lands are special and need to be preserved. They belong to all of us.

So, it’s troubling that the Trump administration would nominate a person to oversee our public lands who has so little regard for them. Acting Bureau of Land Management Director William Perry Pendley is a longtime, outspoken supporter of the land transfer movement, which seeks to remove public lands from federal management.

It is not as though Pendley’s well-documented, extreme positions are a mystery. He has long supported the transfer and sale of federal lands. He supports massive increases in development of our public lands. Pendley’s previous work as an attorney included representing oil and gas companies that sought to drill in the Badger-Two Medicine area near the border of Glacier National Park. I worked seasonally in Glacier National Park for over a decade. Anyone who doesn’t see the monumental significance of protecting Glacier National Park and its neighboring wild places has no business overseeing those who work tirelessly to manage and protect them.

Just last month during a Montana radio interview, Pendley doubled down on some of his extreme positions. He gloated that we need to “develop all of the land” and falsely claimed that the creation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments was illegal. He said he was proud that President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammond brothers, who inspired the 2016 armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.

That is dangerous rhetoric, and could lead to lands being sold to developers who view public lands as a commodity rather than a treasure.

Montanans should be outraged. Pendley’s nomination, and the extreme views he brings with him, is an affront to our way of life, our outdoor recreation economy and our heritage. This goes against who we are as Montanans. And while many Montanans have voiced concern about this appointment, one has remained conspicuously silent: Montana Sen. Steve Daines.

Daines has not opposed this appointment. He has not, as Sen. Jon Tester has done, demanded answers from Mr. Pendley about his past ethical breaches, obvious conflicts of interest in the ongoing Badger-Two Medicine litigation and whether he plans to sell off Western lands.

Why is Daines not outraged? If all Montanans agree that public lands are important, how can one of our three congressional voices remain silent? It is Daines’ job to speak up for Montanans, protect our public lands and ensure that our natural resources are protected.

Daines says he has “not found a reason” to oppose Pendley’s appointment, but Pendley’s long track record opposing the protection of, and access to, public lands is more than reason enough. Daines often claims to be a fighter for public lands. Now he’s been given an opportunity to prove it by forcefully opposing William Perry Pendley as BLM Director.

Rich Moy is a former U.S. Commissioner on the International Joint Commission. Prior to joining the IJC, he worked as a land and water consultant on regional land use planning. He also served as a Senior Fellow at the Center of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Montana. He has spent most of his professional career working on international, regional and Montana land and water issues.

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