William Perry Pendley will remain in charge of the Bureau of Land Management for the time being, even as his arrival in Grand Junction, Colorado, to oversee the agency’s relocation there was faced with an “unwelcome party” and calls for his removal from the position.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt reauthorized Perry as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management Jan. 2, as part of a larger order that delegated the authorities of the special trustee for American Indians, the director of the National Park Service and the director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to lower-level officials due to a lack of Senate-approved nominees.

“This order is intended to ensure uninterrupted management and execution of the duties of these vacant non-career positions during the presidential transition pending Senate-confirmation of new non-career officials,” Bernhardt wrote.

But critics have questioned Perry’s suitability to oversee U.S. public lands due to his past opposition to the government even keeping public lands to begin with.

“William Perry Pendley has repeatedly demonstrated that he is unfit to lead BLM, whether it be his decades-long commitment to the sell off of federal lands, his more recent statement that wild horses are the biggest threat facing public lands or his politically motivated relocation of BLM headquarters that is weakening the agency by forcing out senior staff,” said Brent Bolin, political director of Clean Water Action, in a statement.

“Pendley should never have been appointed, and this latest extension of his term as acting director is a great reminder that he should resign or be removed from his position.”

President Donald Trump has yet to nominate an official candidate to lead BLM, and Pendley was chosen to lead the agency in an acting capacity in July 2019.

The Bureau’s headquarters relocation from Washington, D.C., to Colorado has also faced scrutiny and criticism, as it and other agency moves, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s relocation of two research agencies to Kansas City, have been accused of being a veiled attempt to force federal employees to leave service and reduce the overall influence of the agencies they serve.

"The Bureaus at the Department of the Interior do not operate in a vacuum. Bureau of Land Management lands often surround or are neighbors to national parks — and these parks depend on compatible land management to retain ecosystem, cultural and historical integrity. Decisions made by BLM regarding our public lands have an impact on our national parks,” said Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, in a statement.

“William Perry Pendley has not been an advocate for public lands. His continued leadership at BLM poses a threat to our national parks and the irreplaceable resources they protect and preserve.”

The order extending Pendley’s authority remains in effect until April 3, unless it is extended or Trump chooses to nominate Pendley or someone else permanently to the position.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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