The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee received a damning letter on Wednesday about President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Tracy Stone-Manning, detailing her complicity in a 1989 ecoterrorist crime and her reluctant assistance to federal authorities only after being granted limited immunity from prosecution.
Retired U.S. Forest Service criminal investigator Michael Merkley, who was the special agent tasked with investigating the plot at the time, wrote to the committee that Stone-Manning “was not an innocent bystander,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Breitbart News.
“Contrary to many of the stories in the news, Ms. Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim in this case. And, she most certainly was not a hero,” Merkley began. “Ms. Stone-Manning was not only a member of Earth First!, but she played an active role in the Earth First! hierarchy.”
Earth First! is an environmental extremist group to which Stone-Manning belonged while she was a graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula. Earth First! members committed acts of ecoterrorism in the 1980s and 1990s during the height of the west’s timber wars, and Stone-Manning had a role in one particular case that involved tree spiking in 1989 in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest.
“Throughout this initial investigation in 1989, Ms. Stone-Manning was extremely difficult to work with; in fact, she was the nastiest of the suspects.” Merkley wrote. “She was vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government.”
Stone-Manning mailed a profane letter in 1989 to the Forest Service on behalf of John. P. Blount, an individual in her “circle of friends,” alerting federal authorities that trees in the Idaho forest that were scheduled to be cut down had been sabotaged with metal spikes to prevent them from being harvested. Tree spiking, as this form of sabotage is called, is both a crime, and according to the FBI’s definition, an act of ecoterrorism that can damage or destroy expensive logging equipment and injure or kill loggers or millworkers processing the spiked trees.
After the Forest Service received the letter, Stone-Manning and six other individuals in Missoula were the target of a 1989 grand jury investigation for which they were subpoenaed and required to submit fingerprints and handwriting and hair samples.
“She was very uncooperative and refused to provide the hair, the hand writing exemplars, and fingerprints as ordered by the federal grand jury,” Merkley recalled. “It was not until after we informed her that she would be arrested if she did not comply with the subpoena that she reluctantly provided those samples to me.” He added, “However, she refused to answer any of my other questions.”
The grand jury did not uncover enough evidence from its investigation to charge Blount with a crime in 1989, but Blount’s ex-wife reported him to authorities two years later, and in doing so, also named Stone-Manning as the person who mailed the tree spiking letter for him.
In exchange for immunity, Stone-Manning testified in a 1993 trial against Blount, who was convicted for the tree spiking crime and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
“Let me be clear,” Merkley wrote in his letter to the Senate. “Ms. Stone-Manning only came forward only after her attorney struck the immunity deal, and not before she was caught. At no time did she come forward of her own volition, and she was never entirely forthcoming.”
Stone-Manning on her Senate committee hearing questionnaire in May also falsely claimed she was never the target of an investigation and that the tree spiking crime was an “alleged” crime.
Merkley’s letter was addressed to Senate committee chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and ranking member Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). Manchin, along with most other Democrats, has remained silent on his position on Stone-Manning’s nomination, but Barrasso has been outspoken about his opposition to it, as have several other Republicans on the committee.
Barrasso sent a lengthy list of follow-up questions to Stone-Manning over the weekend as revelations about the ecoterrorism case and some of her stances on environmental issues surfaced. He asked Stone-Manning to reply to his questions by Thursday evening, a sign that the committee may be seeking to make its next move in the confirmation process.
The Wyoming Republican said Thursday he was “grateful” that Merkley came forward with his perspective from the case and restated his position that Biden should withdraw her nomination.
“This new information confirms that Tracy Stone-Manning lied to the committee that she was never a target of an investigation,” Barrasso said. “The nominee has no business leading the Bureau of Land Management. President Biden must withdraw her nomination and if he does not, the Senate must vote it down.”
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