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Nevada Wildlife Federation

August 5, 2019

The Hon. Lisa Murkowski                                          The Hon. Joe Manchin Chair                                                                                Ranking Member
Energy and Natural Resources Committee             Energy and Natural Resources Committee
US Senate                                                                       US Senate
Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

The Hon. Raul Grijalva                                               The Hon. Rob Bishop
Chair                                                                               Ranking Member
Natural Resources Committee                                   Natural Resources Committee
US House of Representatives                                     US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20505                                              Washington, DC 20505


Dear Senators and Representatives,

We represent hundreds of thousands of Western hunters, anglers and other conservationists who hold a deep reverence for our nation’s public lands—lands owned by all Americans and managed by the federal government.

We write with grave concern that your Congressional authority is being undermined and abused by the Administration and as a result, our country’s public lands hang in the balance.

William Perry Pendley was recently tapped by Secretary Bernhardt to a new position “exercising the authority of the director” the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). He will run an agency that manages 248 million acres of public land mostly across the West, land that is in our backyards and owned by all Americans. The problem is, he believes they shouldn’t be. Mr. Pendley is a fierce advocate for the sale and transfer of federal lands. Put simply, he believes public lands should not be in public hands.

That belief may fit the bill for his previous position as the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, an activist group which for years has brought lawsuits against the agency in an effort to curtail its management and authority over our public lands.  Further, under Mr. Pendley’s watch, this organization supported public land trespassers who held an armed standoff with BLM employees. This antipathy for public lands and the public servants who manage them categorically must not be a belief held by someone in charge of the agency. The goal of selling off our federal lands is fundamentally in opposition to the agency’s reason for being, its values, and its mission.

Mr. Pendley has been tapped to exercise the authority of the BLM director and not nominated to the position, so he will not come before the Senate for the constitutionally required advice and consent. The American people will not get to hear about his views and approach to managing our federal lands. The Secretary has made an end-run around Congress, a move that undoubtedly has the blessing of the President.

This is unacceptable.

The appointment of a career anti-public lands crusader to head the BLM comes on the heels of a disturbing announcement from Secretary Bernhardt that he plans to move 84% of the current staff in Washington, DC to the West by October 1. The Secretary says this will put agency staff closer to the lands it manages and the industries that make a living off those lands, but 90% of BLM staff already work in the field.  This proposal is not about making the BLM more responsive to Western communities.  It is about dismantling the agency’s ability to be responsive to Congress.  This reorganization and restructuring by the Secretary have also side-stepped Congressional oversight.

This has led some former BLM employees to speculate that the move is a calculated step toward dismantling the agency, which in turn creates the case for the public land selloff. It is an alarming accusation, but now one that seems corroborated by Mr. Pendley’s appointment. 

We respectfully request you blunt the executive overreach noted above by putting a freeze on any spending that would implement the move until a BLM director is nominated, comes before Congress and the American people and is confirmed.  This director should then be required to justify how leaving 12 or so BLM employees in Washington, DC can effectively run an agency, cooperate with other federal agencies, and be responsive to Congressional funding and oversight.

Our public lands put food on our tables, support wildlife habitat, give us a place to recreate and find solace, and provide natural resources that support jobs in our communities. These lands that are owned by all of us are one of America’s finest ideas and deserve protection and wise stewardship, not wholesale attack through mismanagement and selloff.

The Nevada Wildlife Federation (NvWF) is the oldest statewide conservation organization dedicated to sustaining Nevada’s natural resources for wildlife through conservation, preservation, and education.

Nevada Wildlife Federation, Inc. (NvWF) officers and workers are all volunteers and are not paid for their service to the organization or for the time spent on projects. Funds raised by the NvWF are used to purchase materials for field projects, for contributions to government agencies such as the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), and for specific purposes such as wildlife research and habitat improvements. The NvWF also makes donations to, or pools resources with, other non-profit organizations for state approved wildlife management projects in Nevada. A quarterly newsletter and other normal operating costs make up the remainder of the organization’s expenses.