The Trump administration extended Thursday the tenure of Bureau of Land Management interim head William Perry Pendley, defying environmentalists and progressives who had demanded days earlier his resignation or removal.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed a secretary’s order redelegating the authority of Mr. Pendley and four other appointees until April 3, following a letter Monday from 91 left-leaning groups accusing him of “demoralizing career employees” with the relocation of BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado.
Mr. Bernhardt’s order was “intended to ensure uninterrupted management and execution of the duties of these vacant non-career positions during the Presidential transition pending Senate-confirmation of new non-career officials.”
Mr. Pendley’s appointment was slated to expire Friday. The administration has yet to nominate a permanent head for the agency, a position that would require Senate confirmation.
“The delegations made by this Order will only be in effect until each vacant non-career position is filled by Senate-confirmed appointees, upon the subsequent designation of acting officials, or a subsequent delegation to alternate officials,” said the two-page order.
Mr. Pendley, former president of the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver, was appointed to a deputy director post in July and delegated the authority of the BLM director, overseeing the management of 245 million acres of federal land.
Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, said the BLM needs a director “who will represent the public interest and be a good steward of public lands, rather than representing the tiny sliver of westerners who profit from commercial activity on public lands.”
“It’s time for President Trump to nominate a BLM Director who can pass the test of Senate confirmation, and be a good steward of America’s public lands,” Mr. Molvar said in an email.
The BLM is in the process of moving most of its personnel from Washington, D.C., to Western state offices, with plans to relocate and hire staffers for 40 positions in Grand Junction, a town of 62,000 near the Utah border.
About two-thirds of the 153 agency employees who received relocation letters have indicated they will move with their positions.
“I want to assure you that when we complete this move in the spring, the BLM, the West and the American people all will be better for it,” Mr. Pendley said in a Dec. 22 op-ed in the Casper Star-Tribune. “We look forward to saying ‘Howdy’ to our new neighbors, not just at our new headquarters in Grand Junction or at our various offices throughout the West, but as a welcomed addition to our community.”