Several wild horses escape as a helicopter is used by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to gather wild horses into a trap along Highway 21 near the Sulphur...
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Trump pick to oversee federal lands opposes federal land ownership

When it comes to personnel decisions in the Trump administration, there’s an alarmingly long list of officials who never should’ve been chosen for their position. Some are wholly unqualified, some are radical ideologues and partisans, and some are both.

But it’s against this backdrop that we see a special subset category: administration officials who fundamentally oppose the mission of the department they were asked to lead.

This week offers an amazing example of the phenomenon: while the president hasn’t yet nominated anyone to lead the Bureau of Land Management, Trump’s Interior secretary, David Bernhardt, this week made William Perry Pendley the acting BLM director. That wouldn’t be especially notable were it not for the fact that Pendley, the Washington Post reported, is “a longtime crusader for curtailing the federal government’s control of public lands,” and someone who doesn’t think the federal government should have federal lands to manage.

In the three decades since serving under Reagan, Pendley has sued the Interior Department on behalf of an oil and gas prospector, sought to undermine protections of endangered species such as the grizzly bear, and pressed to radically reduce the size of federal lands to make way for development.

“The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold,” he wrote approvingly in a National Review magazine article in 2016.

As you might imagine, that’s a rather dubious assessment of the Founding Fathers’ perspective.

As recently as two years ago, Pendley wrote another piece criticizing then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for not being aggressive enough in making public lands open to private development.

He’ll now be in a position to oversee federal lands, his opposition to federal-land ownership notwithstanding.

The Post added, “The appointment comes as a critical time for the BLM, which manages more than a tenth of the nation’s land and oversees the federal government’s oil, gas and coal leasing program. Two weeks ago, Interior officials announced the department would reassign 84 percent of the bureau’s D.C. staff out West by the end of next year. Only a few dozen employees, including Pendley, would remain in Washington.”

He’ll join an administration that’s featured a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau led by someone who doesn’t believe there should be a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an Education secretary openly hostile toward public schools, an EPA administrator who’s repeatedly fought against the EPA, an Energy secretary who’s called for the elimination of the Department of Energy, and an opponent of Medicaid expansion who was put in charge of overseeing Medicaid expansion.

Imagine how much worse it would be if Trump didn’t hire “only the best” people.