William Perry Pendley, an attorney noted for his strong advocacy of private property rights, was appointed acting chief of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in a move by the Trump administration that drew the ire of environmental groups.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt temporarily re-delegated Pendley to serve as acting director of the BLM pending an appointee . Pendley joined the bureau earlier this month as deputy director of policy and programs.

The order comes just weeks after BLM announced it would move its headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo.

Pendley was formerly president of the Colorado-based conservative public interest law firm Mountain States Legal Foundation, which focuses on protection of private property rights. He also served in the Department of Interior during the Reagan administration.

The move has drawn the ire of environmental and conservation groups who say Pendley is hostile to public lands. They cite a 2016 article by Pendley in which he wrote that, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold. After all, jurisdiction over real property, that is, property law, was given to the states.”

The Trump administration has received constant criticism from environmental groups claiming that he is weakening environmental regulations and expanding access to energy development on public lands.

“Appointing William Perry Pendley, a proponent of taking public lands out of public hands, to head [BLM] is an outright assault on our public lands system itself,” Western Resource Advocates tweeted.

“Anything they’ve ever said about not selling off public lands has just been a political smokescreen to distract from their real intentions: handing over public lands to their special interest allies,” Executive Director Chris Saeger said.


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