Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) William Perry Pendley recently contradicted a major talking point used by political officials to justify BLM’s relocation efforts, underscoring that the relocation is a charade meant to appease special interests, not improve Interior’s decision-making.
“We’ve known from the start that moving the BLM headquarters is a political ploy meant to dismantle the critical public lands management agency from the inside out and give special interests more access to decision-makers, not impacted communities out West. Pendley’s comments only further prove the true intent of the relocation is to continue eroding America’s public lands,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill.
When asked about public lands management decisions being made at the local level, Pendley said that “any update to a local BLM land management plan is ‘not a local decision,’” recent reporting from Bloomberg Environment revealed. But Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) have repeatedly claimed that the move would result in improved land management decisions because decision-makers would be closer to the lands they manage.
Interior announced the reorganization and relocation of the BLM at the behest of Congress and former BLM career public servants, touting that moving the BLM out of Washington D.C. would expand local decision-making input. Pendley’s recent comments undermine that assumption. It’s been agency standard that decisions concerning the use of public lands, determining which areas are opened to oil, gas, and mineral development have been made at the state and local level BLM offices. However, Pendley recently made clear that any update to BLM management is now “not a local decision.”
The proposed BLM HQ move has been widely criticized for lacking a purpose since the vast majority of BLM staff are already based in the states. Reorganizing the BLM is seen by members of Congress as part of a larger effort to appease special interests by skirting government accountability efforts. The move has also been called into question by former BLM career public servants who believe it is a not-so-veiled attempt to transfer public lands to states, a precursor to selling them to private interests. Recently, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that the intent of relocating federal employees was to force them to quit.
Interior already spent some $14 million on the reorganization and relocation proposal and has requested an additional $27 million that has not been allocated. A recent report from the Western Values Project highlights the consequences of the move.