BLM Director’s Troubling History on Civil Rights, Diversity, and Inclusion

William Pendley Criticized Diversity Efforts, Was Involved in Litigation Challenging Civil Rights and Affirmative Action Efforts

Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) William Pendley has a long and arduous history of disparaging minority groups while actively working against efforts to expand civil rights. 

“Pendley has been in the hot seat ever since Interior Secretary Bernhardt foolishly put him in charge of the BLM. It seems like every day, we are further confronted with Pendley’s sticky, controversial past,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “How can minority groups trust Pendley as the manager of the largest public lands agency in the country — a bureau that is required to consult with tribes — to find land management solutions? How can minority groups trust his opinion when he so clearly stands against diversity efforts, Native American rights, and women working in the public lands arena?” 

Pendley once criticized “race-based decision making” and efforts to increase diversity in the workplace, suggesting that in at least once instance the efforts could lead to death.

Pendley also previously appeared to mock Native American cultural claims during a Republican breakfast forum. Pendley has also criticized the U.S. Forest Service for protecting thousands of acres in the Bighorn National Forest — land considered sacred to Native Americans. 

Pendley’s controversial stances on race and civil rights do not start or stop with Twitter or political fundraisers. Pendley was involved in litigation rallying against diversity efforts, voting rights, and immigration.

When plaintiffs sued over the method of electing the Board of County Commissioners in Wyoming, on the grounds it weakened the voting strength of Native Americans, Pendley and his anti-public lands front group, the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), represented the defendants. 

In a 2006 case, Pendley represented a defendant pushing Arizona’s Proposition 200, which contained voter registration and identification provisions and was seen as a move to imposed restrictions on voter registration and voting.

In another case, Pendley and MSLF represented a defendant pushing back against the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance.” The ordinance was allegedly so poorly drafted that certain people would be unable to live, work, shop or secure services without a US birth certificate or immigration papers in hand.

When Air Traffic Controller hiring practices were updated to achieve more diversity, Pendley represented the group that refused to accept the updated race-neutral hiring practices solely because of the racial makeup of the successful applicants. 

Outside of litigation efforts, during Pendley’s previous stint within Interior, his office deleted a “critical section” of a proposed rule trying to ensure minority and women-owned businesses had a seat at the table. This move was highly criticized by the Interior Office for Equal Opportunity. 

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