‘All lands owned by the federal government to be sold;’ William Perry Pendley picked to lead BLM

Yellowstone National Park
Matthew Brown | AP file photo

William Perry Pendley is now the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages nearly 250 million acres of land across the U.S. West and more than 4 million acres of land in Colorado.

Pendley is an attorney and writer who has argued that the country’s Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold and has advocated on behalf of opening up more federal land to mining, oil and gas development, and other private business uses.

Much of western Eagle County is BLM land, including the Hardscrabble Special Recreation area, the State Bridge Recreation Site, the Wolcott Campground, the Bocco Mountain Trailhead, the Deep Creek camping area, the Lyons Gulch Boat Launch, the Cottonwood Island boat ramp and picnic site, the Gypsum Hills Recreation Area and several other sites.

Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann said the town frequently works with the BLM on land-use issues.

“It’s critical that we have a good relationship with them, so we hope that continues,” Rietmann said. “There’s such a great percentage of federal land in Eagle County, in all of these communities, it’s imperative that we have a productive relationship to accomplish what we want to accomplish in our communities.”

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Is the agenda to privatize?

Some predict the positive relationships will continue at the local level, while others aren’t so sure.

Wilderness Workshop attorney Peter Hart fears the appointment of Pendley could lead to the privatization of BLM lands.

“He’s a guy who believes that the federal government should not be managing those lands; they should be privatized or divested to the states,” Hart said. “And ultimately, I think, pretty much every report that I’ve read on the issue suggests that if the federal government does divest of its public lands, if those become state lands for example, those states aren’t going to have the budget to maintain them and manage them like they’re managed today. It’s too much of a financial burden on the states and, ultimately, what’s going to happen is they’re going to get auctioned off for industrial use or extractive development or just privatized.”

In a speech given in Summit County in 2017, Gov. Jared Polis, then a congressman, said keeping public lands public is the most important environmental initiative facing Congress.

“Of all of the important battles that we’re fighting, to protect our environment, keep our air clean, make a contribution on climate change, the only thing that can never be undone is if our public lands were privatized,” Polis said. “It’s a high-stakes battle, and we need to enlist all our partners in the outdoor recreation industry, economic development and areas and economies that rely on our public lands.”

‘Not interested in transferring public lands’

Interior spokeswoman Molly Block disputed the suggestion that there was an agenda to privatize public lands, saying in an email, “This administration has been clear that we are not interested in transferring public lands.”

As far as more state control is concerned, Utah cattle rancher and county commissioner Leland Pollock said the administration has made it clear to him that there is no intention to go that route, either. Instead, Pollock said, the Pendley appointment is the latest indication that the Trump administration is returning BLM to its original mission of ensuring that public lands are open to multiple uses. That includes mining, ranching, cattle grazing, ATV riding, hunting, mountain-biking and hiking, he said.

“He’s going to manage this thing just simply the way it was supposed to be managed,” Pollock said about Pendley.

–This story contains reporting from Associated Press writers Dan Elliott, Ellen Knickmeyer and Brady McCombs, and Vail Daily Editor Nate Peterson

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