Press Release: Wild Horse Org Files Complaint Against Pendley
Washington, DC — Wild Horse Education, a nonprofit advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The complaint alleges ethics violations involving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Deputy Director William Perry Pendley.
William Perry Pendley, the BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs (exercising authority of the director), has been busy calling wild horses the greatest threat to our public lands. The statements, and agency actions under Pendley, are forwarding the interests of multiple entities included on Pendley’s 17-page recusal list. In addition, the complaint alleges Pendley has used his position to assist those same entities in gaining access to high level agency meetings and information not readily available to the public. These entities will benefit financially, gain support for active legislative change and create a significant and irreparable harm to public resource (wild horses).
When asked at the Society for Environmental Journalism (SEJ) conference last month, “Why are wild horses the biggest threat and not, as an example, climate change?” Pendley seemed to attribute part of his reasoning based on the fact that he had not been fully briefed by BLM regional directors on other issues because of his recusal list.
These recusals include oil companies, energy companies and the National Mining Association. They also include stock growers and multiple entities that represent public lands livestock. The livestock industry (including individuals associated with organizations on the recusal list) are actively lobbying Congress for broad changes to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, including additional funding that will double the current rate wild horses are removed from public lands.
“The actions and comments made by Pendley about wild horses are so absurd we see multiple environmental groups that are usually neutral, or even not particularly favorable, on wild horse issues outraged,” said Laura Leigh, President of Wild Horse Education, “His statements to the press, at this time, are intended to directly influence debates in Congress that could have disastrous, and cruel, consequence to wild horses.”
Multiple officials in this administration have apparently used their government positions to provide their former private employers with access and insight into the Interior Department. Executive branch officials are prohibited for a period of two years from the date of their appointment from meeting or communicating with previous employers to discuss specific policy matters under the White House’s own ethics pledge.
“Pendley is apparently following the footsteps of many that have already left Interior under a slew of ethics investigations, like former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke,” Leigh continued, “The media has paid attention. When wild horses do not exist on 88% of public lands and get a fraction of resources on the 12% they occupy, the idea that wild horses are the greatest threat to public land is an obvious absurdity. It is also, likely, an extraordinary violation of ethics rules. Unfortunately, in the case of America’s public horses, the devastating agenda moves forward without a serious investigation.”
The organization filed the complaint and asked for an expedited investigative process.
Included in the 17 page recusal list: Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Colorado Farm Bureau Federation
The complaint notes: Furthermore, the BLM Report to Congress has not been made public on the Wild Horse and Burro program. Under Pendley the report is now 3 months late and, according to statements made by Pendley at the advisory board meeting, is back in draft form. Documents created, with the involvement of individuals on the recusal list, are being utilized to heavily influence that report.
It is important to remember that Pendley was tapped for his position from the private sector. The Deputy Director position is one that is generally seen as the highest position for an agency career employee. Under this administration we have not had a Director of BLM, a position that requires Senate scrutiny.
Update 11/6 and action item HERE.
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Article in E&E news: https://www.eenews.net/stories/1061462929
IG complaint accuses BLM chief of ‘inappropriate’ ethics
An advocacy group wants the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General to investigate whether the acting chief of the Bureau of Land Management is working to revise federal wild horse and burro policies to “directly enrich” special interest groups he has formally recused himself from interacting with on bureau issues.
The formal ethics complaint filed today against William Perry Pendley suggests that the acting BLM chief has been working on wild horse and burro policies with some of the organizations on his 17-page recusal list. They include the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, which advocates for livestock ranchers, as well as the farm bureaus in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
Pendley, a lawyer and former president of the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation, shared the recusal list in September with BLM employees (Greenwire, Sept. 25).
The complaint says the “inappropriate actions by Mr. Pendley” to “change policy, authorities and standard protocol of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program” would “directly enrich, support and promote agenda items of those on his recusal list.”
“There is a high likelihood of inappropriate behavior by Mr. Pendley,” the complaint says.
Representatives with the Interior Department and BLM did not respond to a request to comment in time for publication.
Nancy DiPaolo, an IG spokeswoman, said she could not confirm it received the complaint against Pendley. Complaints are considered part of the investigative record and are not public, she said.
“Our intake office reviews all incoming complaints for appropriate action,” DiPaolo said in an emailed statement to E&E News.
Wild Horse Education, which filed the complaint, said in a press release today that the livestock industry — “including individuals associated with organizations on the recusal list” — is supposedly “lobbying Congress for broad changes to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, including additional funding that will double the current rate wild horses are removed from public lands.”
The ethics complaint adds that the “sweeping changes to, and extreme position of Mr. Pendley on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program” reflect “positions actively advocated for through lobby efforts that will directly benefit entities on the recusal list.” It lists the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the five state farm bureaus.
Wild Horse Education also takes issue with Pendley’s recent public statements that the ballooning population of wild horses and burros on federal rangelands is the biggest public lands threat facing BLM.
There are currently more than 88,000 wild horses and burros on federal rangelands — three times the maximum number of animals that regulators say the rangeland can handle without causing damage to vegetation, soils and other resources.
Pendley said last month during a panel discussion at the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual conference in Fort Collins, Colo., that uncontrolled wild horses and burros pose an “existential threat” to the health of federal rangelands (Greenwire, Oct. 14).
Also last month, Pendley told reporters that BLM estimates it will take $5 billion and 15 years “to gather enough animals to get the population down to what our range scientists are telling us is reasonable and sensible” (E&E News PM, Oct. 23).
BLM says the number of wild horses and burros considered sustainable on the 27 million acres of federal herd management areas is 26,690.
Pendley’s statements raise questions about his “impartiality” on the issue, according to the ethics complaint.
“There is a real danger that due to a lack of ethics oversight, sweeping legislative changes will create long lasting consequence to public resources,” specifically wild horses and burros, the complaint says.
Laura Leigh, president of Wild Horse Education, blasted Pendley’s characterization of the issue.
“When wild horses do not exist on 88% of public lands and get a fraction of resources on the 12% they occupy, the idea that wild horses are the greatest threat to public land is an obvious absurdity,” Leigh said in a statement.