I have enjoyed the Arizona outdoors my entire life. I dedicated my career with the US Forest Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department to the responsible management of Arizona’s public lands and wildlife. I’ve hunted and fished on some of Arizona’s finest public lands. Some of those lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which has the mission to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” So imagine my surprise this summer when I learned that a man who has spent his entire career opposing public lands was put in charge of them.
For decades, William Perry Pendley has fought against BLM employees, wildlife protections and national monument designations. In a now-famous essay, he said the Founding Fathers never intended for the federal government to own public lands.
For an Arizonan, this is deeply troubling. Our cherished public lands help define who we are as Westerners and provide us with endless possibilities for hunting, hiking, camping and enjoying wildlife. They also help support a $21 billion outdoor recreation economy in our state which supports more than 200,000 jobs and generates $1.4 billion in taxes.
I can’t imagine living in a state where we didn’t have easy and open access for hunting and fishing. But Mr. Pendley has a vision where these lands are sold to the highest bidder and the public is kept out. No wonder the administration hasn’t formally nominated him to fill the BLM director job and instead uses a backdoor method which prevents Congressional scrutiny. Every person who has enjoyed time on America’s beautiful public lands would be outraged! That’s why I’m writing Senators Sinema and McSally. They need to know that Mr. Pendley’s anti-public lands rhetoric is out of sync with Arizona.
Bob Vahle is a board member of the Arizona Wildlife Federation who lives in Pinetop.