The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it will begin leasing cultural lands in Utah’s San Juan County — including Bears Ears National Monument — to oil and gas interests. William Pendley, recently designated the director of the BLM, filed a petition on behalf of San Juan County opposing efforts to restore Bears Ears National Monument and is still the attorney for two other Utah counties defending the Trump administration’s illegal move to shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — calling into question whether his active role in this litigation presents a conflict of interest.
“The rising number of conflicts of interest at Interior is monumental and only continues to rise. Pendley only joined the BLM a couple of months ago, but it’s clear he is too conflicted to act in the best interest of the public and our public lands,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director the Western Values Project. “Leasing off this public land in Utah is bad policy, but what’s worse is Pendley’s clear anti-public lands bias. This charade needs to end: Pendley should not be in charge of the largest public lands agency in the country, given his anti-public lands past and current conflicts.”
Pendley filed a petition on behalf of San Juan County prior to the election of new County Commissioners defending Trump’s illegal reduction of Bears Ears. He also remains the attorney of record for Utah’s Kane and Garfield counties in an effort to keep the Grand Staircase-Escalante the size it was illegally reduced to under the Trump administration. Pendley has previously said he supports selling off all BLM land east of the Mississippi and has adamantly called for the repeal the Antiquities Act.
The Interior Department has yet to publicly release Pendley’s financial disclosure forms or his list of recusals, though the department has claimed that Pendley has recused himself from any matters relating to his former employer, Mountain State Legal Foundation (MSLF). Pendley was president of MSLF – a “conservative counterweight to environmental groups’ litigation efforts” partially funded by the Koch brothers – before joining Interior.