My friend William Perry Pendley recently visited Manhattan. He is the president of the Denver-based Mountain States Legal Foundation. Established in 1977, MSLF fights against federal overreach out West and for property rights, the Second Amendment, and colorblind government hiring, among other vital issues. Its founders were master brewer Joe Coors and James Watt, who became President Reagan’s first Interior secretary.
Pendley has helmed MSLF since 1989. He has argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1995, he won Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, a key victory for race-neutral public contracting. “In the eyes of government, we are just one race here,” Justice Antonin Scalia argued in his concurring opinion. “It is American.”
Since then, Pendley says, the “cowardice” of the G.W. Bush Administration helped foil MSLF’s subsequent attempts to halt race-driven federal contacts. On another matter, the group did score an 8-1 SCOTUS decision favoring a Wyoming man whose property was swiped by the U.S. Forest Service.
Pendley — author of Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today — is upbeat about many of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to deregulate federal land management and speed energy production.
“Ending the War on Coal was huge for the West,” Pendley says, “especially my home State of Wyoming, but also for western Colorado, Montana, and Utah.” Pendley also praised the Trump administration’s decision not to micro-manage oil and gas fracking, which states and American Indian tribes have handled for years. Likewise, he applauds Trump’s curtailment of Obama’s property-snatching “Waters of the United States” rule, and an end to the job-crushing blunt-instrument trauma of the federal Endangered Species Act. Pendley also says he is “thrilled with Justice Neil Gorsuch’s appointment.” Before the Coloradan’s ascent to that bench, Pendley called the Court “a bi-coastal SCOTUS.”
Conversely, Pendley laments that the Department of Interior seems to be botching a major overhaul of the land-grabbing policies of Obama and his predecessors.
“Secretary Ryan Zinke failed President Trump three ways,” Pendley says. “He failed to revoke any federal-monument designations, even after admitting that several were illegal. He recommended that only four be reduced in size and the rest amended to permit economic use, which environmental groups will sue to stop. And he urged that Trump use the Antiquities Act of 1906 as Clinton and Obama did, that is, by illegally closing federal lands, including a Reagan-era oil and gas lease in Montana that poses a political problem for Zinke.”