The magazine was also a go-to platform for the so-called “Wise-Use movement,” a group of anti-government organizations pushing to boost mining, drilling and logging on federal lands while deriding environmentalists as domestic terrorists. Pendley, a conservative lawyer with extreme anti-government and anti-environmentalism views, was a key figure in that movement as it gained momentum in the 1980s.
If you’re writing for 21st Century Science & Technology, you’re writing for people who really had some Nazi sympathies.
Freelance journalist Dennis King, on Pendley’s articles in a LaRouche magazine
Pendley joined the Trump administration in mid-July as deputy director for policy and programs at the Bureau of Land Management and by the end of the month was elevated to the role of acting director ― thereby sidestepping the Senate confirmation process for the top BLM job. He’s one of many high-ranking administration officials across the government with a history of battling the very agencies they now run.
Pendley’s ascent came as LaRouche’s organization reemerged in national politics with a stunt aimed to embarrass those arguing for a Green New Deal, a sweeping federal policy framework for combating the climate crisis. Earlier this month, a woman working with LaRouche PAC appeared at a town hall meeting that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) held in her home district, pleading with the freshman lawmaker to consider “eating babies” as a solution to curbing planet-heating emissions.
The stunt, immortalized in a viral video, was widely mocked. But the beliefs that Pendley, 74, espoused in his writings have largely gone mainstream in the Republican Party. At least eight states across the South and Midwest have enacted laws to increase criminal penalties for anti-fossil fuel protests, according to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, which tracks anti-protest legislation.
The progressive political action committee American Bridge first found ― and shared exclusively with HuffPost ― Pendley’s previously unreported writings. But a HuffPost investigation surfaced more details about his ties to LaRouche, highlighting the degree to which once-marginal extremists now control key portions of the federal government’s response to a rapidly worsening ecological collapse.
Writing For LaRouche
“We found it astounding that such an article would be included in a publication supposedly dealing with science and technology,” the official wrote, adding that an internationally known scientist had flagged the article to the BLM with a note that read, “This appears to be the journal of scientific disinformation!”
The magazine also ran separate responses to the BLM official from the Sahara Club and Pendley. The Sahara Club claimed the federal agency closed the Mojave area as part of a “personal vendetta” it had against the club. Pendley accused the BLM of being a “pushover” for the Humane Society, which had filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s proposed raven control program. “Robbed of the only program that ― according to the government’s own documents ― would have done the desert tortoise any good,” Pendley wrote, “the government declared war upon the cattleman, the woolgrower, the miner, the off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiast and the City of Las Vegas.”
The following year, Pendley wrote an article in the magazine slamming a federal judge who ruled that a Montana rancher could not claim self-defense in the killing of a protected grizzly bear. Pendley called the decision “a frightening embrace, by an agency of the U.S. government, of the view of many animal rights fanatics and environmental zealots that human beings are only co-equal inhabitants of the planet, no better than any other creature.”
“We need more facts to establish participants, patterns, and to determine the existence of a conspiracy on the part of those who would kill fathers in the name of Mother Earth,” Pendley said in the magazine.
“If you’re writing for 21st Century Science & Technology, you’re writing for people who really had some Nazi sympathies,” King said. He noted that LaRouche and his followers had anti-Semitic beliefs and a long history of promoting and defending Nazi scientists. That included eulogizing Arthur Rudolph, the World War II German engineer who later helped develop the Saturn V rocket that put Americans on the moon.
Pendley’s pieces appeared in the magazine at the time that LaRouche was serving a federal prison sentence in Minnesota for fraud and conspiracy. The eight-time presidential candidate and convicted felon died in February at age 96.
A Sagebrush Rebel
In the 1996 book “Green Backlash,” which documents the rise of the anti-environmental movement, British investigative journalist Andrew Rowell wrote that Pendley “had been a close personal friend of James Watt’s since 1975,” six years before Watt appointed him to the Interior Department post.
Under Pendley’s command, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, an industry-funded group once described as the “litigating arm of the Wise Use Movement,” hosted a series of wise-use conferences. At a 1993 event, Pendley compared environmentalists to communists, saying they are “like watermelons, red on the inside, green on the outside,” according to Rowell’s book. And one day before a 1994 wise-use event in Joseph, Oregon, that featured Pendley as a speaker, demonstrators in that town hung, tarred and feathered effigies of two environmental activists.
Pendley has compared the Earth First! group to the Nazis, saying “they are no better than Hitler’s Brownshirts,” according to Rowell. And in a 2013 interview with the Federalist Society, Pendley asserted that “the environmental community is no longer concerned about human beings.”
It’s rhetoric that closely mirrors that of Watt and LaRouche.
Watt likened environmentalists to the Nazis and described green activists as “a left-wing cult which seeks to bring down the kind of government I believe in.” In 1990, several years after he was forced to resign as Interior chief, he famously declared that “if the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.”
LaRouche, through his media outlets, often railed against environmental “terrorists” and “eco-fascists,” going as far as to compare the movement to Satanism. Earth First! was one of his organization’s primary targets.
In his 1996 book, Rowell wrote: “Lyndon LaRouche was one of the first people to brand anyone involved in any progressive protest as a ‘terrorist’. Following his lead many sections of society are now labelling environmentalists as terrorists. William Perry Pendley calls greens terrorists. MSLF [Mountain States Legal Foundation] has held conferences on eco-terrorism, and has been instrumental in having Earth First! labelled as a terrorist organisation.”
Sinking A Biodiversity Pact
While that sit-down proved largely unsuccessful in terms of winning over Reagan Cabinet members, the LaRouchians spent the next two decades working to forge alliances with anti-environmental organizations and industry groups, King told HuffPost.
It’s unclear if Pendley ever met LaRouche in person, either while working in the Reagan administration or at MSLF. But he did cross paths with two LaRouche associates at a “Wise Use Leadership Conference” in Sparks, Nevada, in July 1994, according to documents collected by an organization affiliated with the Environmental Working Group and archived by Greenpeace.
Elyssa Rosen, a representative of the environmental group Sierra Club, apparently infiltrated the conference. Her notes detail a bizarre, disorganized and delusional gathering. Attendees sold T-shirts that read “Clinton-Free Zone” and likened environmentalists to witches and druids. Speakers at the event included Pendley, who reportedly stressed the need to “expose the hidden costs of environmental policy,” as well as a “LaRouche groupie” and forest scientist named Michael Coffman, Rosen wrote in her notes.
Also at the conference was Rogelio “Roger” Maduro, a close LaRouche associate and an editor at the magazine according to a memo in the archived collection. At the time, Maduro was leading the LaRouche organization’s behind-the-scenes campaign to kill U.S. Senate support for the Convention on Biological Diversity, a nonbinding conservation treaty. Maduro urged the wise-use leaders gathered in Nevada to make defeating the biodiversity treaty a top priority and disclosed that he was working with the American Sheep Industry Association on a paper to garner opposition, as detailed in a lengthy 1997 report by the Environmental Working Group.
Coffman, a conspiracy theorist, also reportedly called conference attendees to defeat the treaty. Later that year, Coffman published a piece in 21st Century Science & Technology titled “The Pagan Roots of Environmentalism.”
The collaborative effort by LaRouche’s network and wise-use organizations ultimately proved successful. The treaty never came to the Senate floor for a vote, and the United States to this day has not signed on to the agreement. Maduro took credit in a September 1994 issue of Executive Intelligence Review, writing that the report he created for the sheep association was an “important factor” in defeating the pact. He applauded several of the groups that were present at the July 1994 conference for mobilizing in a way that left “U.S. Senate staffers flabbergasted, State Department officials screaming, and greenies weeping,” but did not mention Mountain States Legal Foundation. Coffman also claims to have “played a key role in stopping the ratification” of the treaty.
The Bureau of Land Management did not respond to HuffPost’s request for an interview with Pendley or to a list of emailed questions about his writings and the 1994 wise-use conference. The Interior Department, of which the BLM is part, also did not respond.
The Same Old Torch
But the reality is that his opinions and experience taking on the federal government are what make him a perfect fit for the Trump administration, and no doubt a main reason he landed the high-ranking position.
Nearly three decades after contributing to the LaRouche publication, Pendley and what’s left of LaRouche’s organization continue to pound similar drums.
Along with its stunt at Ocasio-Cortez’s town hall, the LaRouche organization has taken aim at 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. In September, the Executive Intelligence Review published a conspiracy-laden “special report” titled “‘CO₂ Reduction’ Is a Mass Murder Policy: Designed by Wall Street and the City of London.” The report’s landing page features a close-up of Thunberg wearing a hooded jacket.
Up until his appointment to Trump’s BLM, Pendley was posting under the Twitter handle @Sagebrush_Rebel, a reference to the Sagebrush Rebellion movement of the 1970s and ’80s that sought to remove lands from federal control. His tweets often lashed out at environmental activists like Thunberg, whom he likened to a cult leader.
In a phone interview, Rowell marveled at the number of environmental foes featured in his 1996 book “Green Backlash” who went on to hold positions of power in the Trump administration, which has prioritized gutting environmental regulations, and to join the chorus that’s taken to attacking and demonizing the next generation of environmental advocates.
“There is nothing more fundamentally pathetic ― a bunch of old right-wingers going after Greta,” Rowell said.
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