William Perry Pendley — Trump’s choice to head the Bureau of Land Management — has a record that shows an antipathy toward the environment, Native tribal sovereignty and pretty much everyone who cares about proper stewardship of public lands.
That’s likely why this administration wants him in charge.
However, by announcing his intention to nominate Pendley, President Donald Trump has made it possible for the U.S. Senate to hold confirmation hearings.
Avoiding a hearing in the past meant vulnerable senators — think GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado — did not have to take a vote on Pendley’s nomination. Now, the Senate can step up and hold hearings. Both New Mexico senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, are on record against his confirmation.
The interim appointment had allowed Trump to keep in place, with no pushback from senators, a man on record denying climate change, supporting the sale of public lands and comparing environmentalists to communists.
He’s not just terrible on policy, either. Pendley’s management of coal leases during the Reagan administration came under fire because of his close ties to coal lobbyists.
As interim director, he has pushed moving the BLM to the West, an action that has cost it experience and talent.
All in all, it’s not a record deserving of confirmation.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt put Pendley in place a year ago, another in a series of interim BLM directors since Trump took office. Not one BLM director has received Senate confirmation.
In Pendley, Trump has a nominee with a record of opposing public land ownership by the federal government, ironic since the BLM manages some 247 million-plus acres of federal land.
That includes stewardship of 30 percent of the nation’s minerals.
Yet in 2016, Pendley wrote in a National Review article that, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.”
That’s right. The steward of the public lands wants to sell them, seeking “real change” for Westerners. Considering his association with the right-wing Mountain States Legal Foundation, that’s hardly surprising.
Westerners know that holding lands in common protects the environment from overdevelopment by private interests concerned only about profits. In New Mexico, we have seen the dangers of overleasing federal lands to oil and gas interests — a process that risks our air, water, land and cultural heritage.
That Trump would select a terrible nominee is no surprise.
He has been clear that land is for exploitation, there to enrich private interests at the expense of public good.
Now that Trump finally will be nominating a director, senators must seize the opportunity to use their constitutional power to “advise and consent.”
Voters deserve to know where their senators stand. It’s either with the people and the land held in common, or with industries that seek profit above all.
A vote on the nomination of Pendley will make that clear, just in time for the November election.