That's not how it works," Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said of the May order in an interview.
Prior to joining the Trump administration, he had called for the government to sell its public lands.
Interior Department spokesperson Conner Swanson confirmed that the arrangement outlined in Pendley's order means he will continue to lead the bureau.
After joining the government, he declared that his past support for selling public lands was irrelevant because his boss, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, opposes the wholesale sale of public lands.
Under Trump, the land bureau has sought to scale back some protections for public lands, including proposals to ease restrictions on oil and gas exploration, mining and grazing.