Bureau of Land Management decisions made since July 29, 2019, are now vulnerable following a federal judge’s decision that acting BLM director William Perry Pendley was not serving in his position legally.

“Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting BLM Director,” Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Montana said in his Sept. 25 ruling, putting Pendley's illegal tenure at 424 days. “His ascent to Acting BLM Director did not follow any of the permissible paths set forth by the U.S. Constitution or the [Federal Vacancies Reform Act]. Pendley has not been nominated by the President and has not been confirmed by the Senate to serve as BLM Director.”

The Interior Department said the decision “fundamentally misinterprets the law and unreasonably attempts to upend decades of practice spanning multiple presidential administrations from both parties.” DOI said it would appeal.

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Morris directed the parties to file briefs by Oct. 5 on which decisions by Pendley, including Resource Management Plans in Montana and elsewhere, should be set aside.

In the complaint filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the state said BLM “has developed a pattern and practice in the last three years of actions and omissions that threaten sagebrush habitat that was previously identified by [BLM] as a conservation priority,” threatening the “long-term viability of the sage grouse” and creating “a significant risk that the sage grouse will be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

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