Trump official’s troubling Twitter history deserves another look

William Perry Pendley, acting director of the Bureau of Land Management

William Perry Pendley, acting director of the Bureau of Land Management


Bureau of Land Management's William Perry Pendley ridiculed climate activism, diversity initiatives

Once you land on William Perry Pendley’s Twitter feed, it’s hard to unsee what you’ve seen.

In the past year alone, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has insulted young climate advocates, compared climate change to unicorns and lashed out against diversity. These statements raise concerns over how he’ll manage natural resources, not to mention how he’ll serve local communities, especially people of color and other marginalized communities whose safety and comfort have often been ignored in public lands management.

Despite this, Pendley’s temporary appointment was extended through the end of 2019.

The first tweets that jump off the screen are the ones aimed at young people. In March, as tens of thousands of students bravely took to the streets against climate change, Pendley accused them of protesting just to skip class. He later suggested that 16-year-old climate champion Greta Thunberg is leading a cult.

Pendley suggested in a tweet that 16-year-old climate champion Greta Thunberg is leading a cult.

Deep into his feed, it gets even more bizarre. Pendley once tweeted that climate change doesn’t exist, just like unicorns. An alarming statement for a BLM director, especially since public lands are increasingly considered an important weapon against the climate crisis

Other tweets show his carelessness about public lands – the very assets that he manages. In January, he tweeted that founding fathers intended federal lands to be sold. The statement shows his eagerness to hand off America’s natural treasures for a profit, mainly for mining, drilling and development.

In fact, he's expressed this sentiment in the past. While a top official in the Reagan administration in 1981, he wrote notes in a memorandum with what looks like a plan to “sell all BLM lands” east of Mississippi River. 

When you think you’ve seen enough, you’ll come upon Pendley's striking views on creating a more inclusive society. 

When you think you’ve seen enough, you’ll come upon his striking views on creating a more inclusive society. The acting director once tweeted: “How many have died and how many more will die because of diversity and race-based decision making?” The tweet was so shocking it even gained media attention

Since being appointed acting director of the BLM, Pendley has been “taking a break” from Twitter - but has made no effort to delete his problematic tweets. His controversial views can also be found in multiple opinion pieces, media interviews and even official testimony before Congress.

Pendley's most alarming tweets

Trump's admin has reappointed William Perry Pendley as acting BLM director, and he has quite the Twitter feed. We could tell you all about his climate-denying, anti-environment and troubling stances on diversity—but here's Pendley in his own words.

Pendley has repeatedly denied climate change exists—claiming climate science is "political science or junk science"—in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Pendley has cheered on any policy that would turn our wildest lands into mining, drilling and development sites when these places must be protected for future generations. He’s also called the Endangered Species Act "a joke."

Pendley’s controversial opinions go beyond his tweets. In a recent congressional hearing, he stated that he’s "never advocated for the wholesale disposal or transfer of [public] lands." Well, that's just false. Keep on reading!

During his time in the Reagan administration, Pendley wrote a note in 1981 that said: "Sell all BLM lands E. of Miss." This would mean an unprecedented sell-off of all public land across the 31 states east of the Mississippi River.

Here are some more of William Perry Pendley’s radical anti-public lands beliefs.

Pendley once wrote an entire article accusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of being too weak when removing national monuments protections, even though cuts to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante were massive.

Pendley has a history of troubling practices — once accepting a $1,343 dinner from coal company officials. On the same day, he made a decision benefitting the industry that cost taxpayers $100 million — allegedly ending in his resignation.

Pendley’s legal foundation has been described by the Association on American Indian Affairs as “opposed to government efforts to protect Native American sacred sites.” Pendley himself has been quoted mocking American Indian religious practitioners.

Pendley also has some pretty horrible takes regarding efforts to make our country more inclusive and equitable. Here are a few.

Environmental enemy

Many of Pendley’s cringe-worthy beliefs can be traced back to the 1980s when he served as an Interior Department appointee under president Ronald Reagan. At the time, he pushed hard for developing coal and other minerals in wilderness areas. The period explains his Twitter handle “@Sagebrush_Rebel,” referring to that era's "Sagebrush Rebellion" anti-public lands movement.

In the following decades, Pendley focused on opposing conservation groups and public lands agencies in legal battles. As president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, he advocated for selling off millions of federal acres in the West, eroding protections for public lands and gutting environmental laws.

In July, Pendley was quietly brought back to the Interior Department as acting chief of the BLM. The dangerous move put a man who has always disdained environmental protection in charge of nearly a quarter-billion acres of public land. Even worse, he was appointed in an "acting" capacity, meaning he hasn't undergone a Senate confirmation process – an all-too-common practice by the Trump administration to bypass scrutiny.

As Pendley’s tenure is extended to January 2020, there’s public outcry over his lack of fitness for the job due to controversial views and close ties to fossil fuel companies. He’s already had to submit multiple recusals due to conflicts of interest. Yet, there’s a chance he will be officially nominated as permanent director of the agency. We just can’t let that happen.

William Perry Pendley is a radical anti-public lands zealot who shouldn't lead the BLM. His anti-environment, climate-change-denying history and lack of inclusivity showcase he’s not fit for the job. 

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