A federal judge ruled Friday that the Trump administration's leading steward of public lands has been serving unlawfully and has blocked him from continuing in the position.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said U.S. Bureau of Land Management acting director William Perry Pendley served unlawfully for 424 days without being confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate.
Montana’s Democratic governor had sued to remove Pendley, saying the the former oil industry attorney was illegally overseeing an agency that manages almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West.
Montana's Democratic governor asked a federal judge Aug. 20 to take swift action to remove the Trump administration's chief steward of public lands, as the former industry attorney hangs onto the post despite the White House saying Aug. 15 that his nomination would be withdrawn.
Gov. Steve Bullock said William Perry Pendley's continuing leadership of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management undermines conservation efforts and is illegal because Pendley never had a Senate confirmation hearing.
The bureau oversees almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West, and regulates activities ranging from mining and oil extraction to livestock grazing and recreation.
Trump nominated Pendley to lead the BLM in June. The Bureau manages roughly one-tenth of the land mass of the United States and approves development of vast publicly owned energy resources including oil and gas wells and coal mines.
Following months of pressure by Democrats and some Republicans, Trump withdrew Pendley's nomination in August, but he continued to lead the agency as its deputy director for programs and policy.
Pendley has long been polarizing. Prior to coming to the BLM he called for the sale or transfer of federal public lands to the states. He also spent much of his career as an attorney challenging the agency he now leads.
“Today's ruling is a win for the Constitution, the rule of law, and our public lands,” said Gov. Bullock. It's also seen as a boost for his Senate campaign as the potential sale or transfer of federal public lands is a key issue for Montana voters.
As Election Day draws closer, many Billings residents have found the campaign yard signs they've placed on their property vandalized or removed.A widely shared post on Facebook Wednesday afternoon shows a young man pulling up signs for U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Steve Bullock from a yard in a Billings neighborhood and placing them in his car.
The post then showed photos of the same man at another house nearby campaigning for Sen. Steve Daines, Bullock's opponent.
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