Matthew Brown / AP
The Trump administration says it will, for now, comply with a federal court ruling that bars William Perry Bendley from continuing to serve as interim head of the Bureau of Land Management.
The Next to the court With Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who argued that Pendley’s continued appointment violated federal law because it had not been confirmed by the US Senate. Bendley ran the Home Office agency – which controls who can do nearly 10% of all land in the United States – for more than a year through a series of controversial contract extensions.
In remarks to NPR, the Trump administration said an appeal was planned but no timeline was given.
“The Interior Ministry believes that this ruling is wrong, and fundamentally misinterprets the law and unreasonable attempts to end decades of practice that spanned multiple presidential administrations from both parties,” Dan Gorjani, a lawyer at the Interior Ministry, said in a statement.
Although Bendali has been heading the agency since August 2019, his official title remains as Deputy Director of Policies and Programs.
Gordani said Bendley had not received confirmation from the Senate and was not holding the position of acting director, so his appointment does not violate the federal vacancy reform law, which bars agency officials from serving for more than 210 days.
However, switching temporary appointments and uncertain agency directors has been a hallmark of the Trump era. Democrats likened it to an imaginary game where the president could maintain close control of whoever appoints him while avoiding Senate oversight, as required by the constitution.
even so, Bendley set He attracted some intense scrutiny due to his controversial past writings and his legal work as president of the Colorado-based Mountain States Legal Foundation. He was seen as sharp and successful litigants like industrial and rural provinces in court challenges to the agency he would continue to lead.
Pendley, who deals with TwitterRecalcitrant sageHe also sympathizes with illegal plantation owners who have led armed rebellions against the federal government. And in late 2016, he called for Selling American public lands To countries.
In the West, support for federal public lands often runs counter to party lines, as politicians tout their records on everything from seeking access to federal wildlife protection.
Amid mounting political pressure, Trump He withdrew his candidacy at a late hour From Bendley in June. The vote would have put several Western Republican senators in trouble, including Montana Senator Steve Dines. It’s in a tough race with Gov. Steve Bullock, who has filed the lawsuit.
The proposed sale or wholesale transfer of public land has recently been a major issue for Montana voters – a state that could help determine whether Democrats take the Senate presidency next year.
“If there’s one thing that’s important to Montana residents, it’s protecting public lands globally,” said Dave Parker, professor of political science at Montana State University.
But Parker doubts the ruling will drastically change the dynamics in that state’s Senate race, though he expected Pollock to gain support with the independents, and he expects campaign ads showing his success in ousting Pendley.
For now, it appears that Home Secretary David Bernhard is back to formally oversee BLM’s operations at the department level, although Bendali continues to work for the agency while the administration reviews “all legal options.”
Conservation groups have argued that the court ruling effectively nullifies any formal public land administration decisions that Bendali has made since his inauguration late last summer.
“Keeping him in any administrative position in the office only confirms this administration’s contempt for the law and the balanced administration of all public lands to Americans,” said Tracy Stone Manning of the National Wildlife Federation.