U.S. SENATE – Following William Perry Pendley’s refusal to follow direct orders from a Federal District Court Judge to vacate his position as de facto Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Senator Jon Tester introduced legislation to put the matter to rest permanently by barring the Department of Justice from appealing Pendley’s case.

“Montanans have known since day one that William Perry Pendley is nothing more than an unelected Washington bureaucrat who is willing to break the law to sell off our public lands,” said Tester. “Now he’s ignoring a court order and thumbing his nose at the Constitution, so I’m introducing legislation that will put an end to this executive overreach and make sure he can’t continue in his illegal role leading the BLM. Pendley, you aren’t a king—don’t tread on our public lands.”

Tester’s Public Lands Leadership Act, which is cosponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would prohibit the Department of Justice from defending Pendley in Bullock v. United States Bureau of Land Management, the lawsuit brought by Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Last month, Judge Brian Morris of the Federal District Court of Montana ruled in favor of Governor Bullock, ordering Pendley to be removed as Acting Director of BLM, and he issued a second ruling earlier this week invalidating three land-use plan revisions in Montana because they were approved under Pendley’s illegal tenure.

The Department of Interior has indicated they intend to appeal the rulings and Pendley has claimed that the ruling will not affect his role at BLM.

Tester has led the charge against Pendley since he was first installed at BLM in August 2019. Before Pendley’s nomination to lead BLM was rescinded, Tester led a group of Western Democratic Senators in calling for an expedited Senate confirmation hearing to force Pendley to answer for his career of anti-public land activism before the American people.

Tester also wrote to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in July urging him to remove Pendley, who has repeatedly stated his desire to sell off America’s public lands and who was forced to recuse himself last year from a large portion of BLM’s portfolio due to various flagrant conflicts of interest. 

Immediately after his appointment last summer Tester assailed Pendley’s record, and wrote a letter voicing serious concerns over his repeated calls for the federal government to sell off public lands, demanding he explain his past ethical violations regarding a coal leasing program and calling on him to recuse himself from his many conflicts of interest, including the Badger Two-Medicine case.

Pendley previously ran the anti-public lands group Mountain States Legal Foundation, served as counsel for Solenex LLC, the firm seeking to restore illegally-issued drilling leases in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area, and has encouraged armed standoffs between federal law enforcement officials and ranchers.

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