LAS CRUCES – As construction workers continued to erect steel bollard fencing along the southern border in New Mexico Friday, an Interior department official emphasized the federal Bureau of Land Management’s role in realizing President Donald Trump’s goal of completing the border wall.
“It has been my experience … that in our role to protect the environment and conserving public lands, the best way to do that is through border security,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond said in a telephone interview.
“Congress has given us a lot of responsibility,” he continued. “When it declares an area a wilderness, that means the land is supposed to be ‘untrammeled.’ That’s what the law says. It’s difficult to do that when you have illegal traffic going through, and smuggling in various forms.”
When Hammond spoke to the Las Cruces Sun-News on Friday, BLM’s leadership structure remained unclear following a federal court ruling removing the bureau’s acting director.
Who’s in charge of BLM?
In September, a federal judge removed William Perry Pendley as the bureau’s acting director after he had served for more than a year without being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Yet Pendley remains at the bureau and on Monday he was listed as deputy director on its website. Pendley, a former attorney for the oil and gas industry, told the Casper Star-Tribune last week that he continues to function as BLM’s acting head but that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will sign off on all documents.
“At the end of the day, me,