Montana Public Radio

Tester Joins Call For Congressional Hearing On BLM's Pendley

Jul 21, 2020

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester joined a half dozen other Democrats Tuesday in calling for Congress to schedule a hearing on the Trump administration’s pick to lead the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The letter signed by Tester and others comes a day after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock sued BLM, alleging William Perry Pendley has been leading the agency illegally.

President Donald Trump announced his intent last month to nominate Pendley to lead the branch, which is housed under the Interior Department. Pendley is now awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S. Senate after leading the agency, which oversees 245 million acres of public land, for nearly a year.

Tester and eight other Senators from western states signed onto a letter this week, asking the Senate Natural Resources Committee to expedite Pendley’s hearing.

“Now while I strongly oppose his nomination, I am pushing for the process to move as quickly as possible so that William Perry Pendley can be held accountable to the American public for his long career of anti-public-lands activism,” he said.

The spokesperson for the Senate committee did not respond by deadline, and a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, state land management officials and Bullock argued Pendley is violating the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which says a person serving in an acting capacity may do so “for no longer than 210 days.”

"And if he’s good enough to run the agency, then he’s certainly good enough for a vote," Bullock said.

Bullock is running for Montana’s U.S. Senate this year against incumbent Republican Steve Daines. Bullock told MTPR if he were in the senate, he would not support Pendley.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Daines’ office called Bullock’s lawsuit a “political stunt,” but did not provide Daines’ stance on Pendley’s appointment.

Daines’ spokesperson said Bullock’s lawsuit was a diversion to draw attention away from the House of Representatives vote scheduled for Wednesday on the Great American Outdoors Act, which both Daines and Tester co-sponsored.

Last year, Daines said he was undecided, but called criticism over Pendley’s record advocating for the federal government to sell off public lands “overblown.” Daines sits on the Senate’s Natural Resource Committee.