BLM head: ‘What I thought, what I wrote, what I did in the past is irrelevant.’

Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley won’t answer questions about his history of climate denial or denigrating immigrants at environmental journalism conference.

 

Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley speaks at the Society of Environmental Journalists 2019 conference. To his left is Dina Gilio-Whitaker a lecturer in American Indian studies at California State University San Marcos.

This article was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

William Perry Pendley, the controversial acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, told a room full of journalists on Friday that his opinions on climate change and immigrants are “irrelevant” to his job overseeing 245 million acres of public land.

Speaking on a panel at the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual conference, Pendley, a conservative lawyer who has spent his career fighting federal land protections and environmental regulation, sparred repeatedly with reporters. 

He refused to comment about his past statements that cast doubt over basic climate science and compared immigrants to a “cancer.” He also repeatedly responded to questions by saying, “I disagree with your premise.” 

As recently as February, Pendley compared the climate crisis to a “unicorn” because “neither exists.”

Asked to clarify his position on Friday, he deferred to his boss, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist who has said he hasn’t lost sleep over soaring atmospheric carbon dioxide and blamed Congress for his own inaction on climate. Bernhardt had been scheduled to appear at the conference but canceled.

“I’m not a scientist, I’m a lawyer,” Pendley said. “I defer to the secretary. He’s been very clear on this subject. He believes that climate change is real, that mankind has an impact, that we’re unable to project future climate conditions, but that we need to understand the consequences.”

Asked again about his own views, Pendley balked: “Nope, I’m not going to clarify. Those are my personal opinions,” he said. “I’m a Marine. I follow orders.”

Pendley added that he has not been briefed on climate impacts to America’s public lands in the three months he’s been acting head of the BLM.

Pendley added that he has not been briefed on climate impacts to America’s public lands in the three months he’s been acting head of the BLM.

In 2007, Pendley referred to undocumented immigrants as “spreading like a cancer” in a fundraising mailer for his legal fund resurfaced by CNN this week. When pressed on Friday about the statement, Pendley brushed off the question entirely. 

“My personal opinions are irrelevant,” he said. “I have a new job now. I’m a zealous advocate for my client. My client is the American people and my bosses are the president of the United States and Secretary Bernhardt. What I thought, what I wrote, what I did in the past is irrelevant. I have orders, I have laws to obey, and I intend to do that.”

Pendley didn’t hesitate, though, to slam Democratic presidential candidates who have pledged to stop new fossil fuel leasing on public lands for fossil fuel development if elected.

Chris D'Angelo is a reporter for HuffPost, based in Washington, D.C. Alexander Kaufman is reporter at HuffPost, based in New York. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • ANNUAL FUND MANAGER
    Working closely with the Foundation's leadership, the Annual Fund Manager is responsible for the oversight and management of the Foundation's annual operating fund. This is...
  • DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
    Looking for someone who loves public land and understands the value and importance of data in reaching shared goals as part of a high-functioning team....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • NEW BOOK: A FEAST OF ECSTATIC VERSE AND IMAGERY
    Dynamic fine art photographer offers use of images to raise funds. Available for use by conservation groups. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com.
  • WANTED: TALENTED WRITER
    Write the introduction to A Feast of Ecstatic Verse and Imagery, a book concerning nature and spirituality. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com. Writer who works for conservation/nature...
  • MT STATE DIRECTOR- THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
    The Montana State Director is a member of The Wilderness Society's (TWS) Conservation program team who plays a leading role in advancing the organization's mission...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....