Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) plans to support Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s controversial nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), despite her past involvement in an ecoterrorist operation and history of promoting extremist views, such as population control.
Manchin’s spokesperson confirmed to the Hill on Monday the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will back Stone-Manning. Assuming other Democrats on the committee follow Manchin’s lead, the vote to continue her confirmation process would be deadlocked as all of the committee’s Republicans have called on Biden to withdraw her nomination.
Stone-Manning has come under enormous scrutiny over the past several weeks in large part for her membership 30 years ago in the environmental extremist group Earth First!, and specifically for her involvement during that time in a tree spiking plot.
As Breitbart News reported, while Stone-Manning was a graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula in 1989, she mailed a profane letter on behalf of John P. Blount to the U.S. Forest Service, alerting authorities that trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest that were scheduled to be cut down had been sabotaged with metal spikes.
Tree spiking, as this form of sabotage is called, is both a crime and, by the FBI’s definition, an act of ecoterrorism.
After the Forest Service received Stone-Manning’s letter, she 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, as well as handwriting and hair samples. The grand jury did not uncover enough evidence from its investigation to charge Blount with a crime, 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, and he was later convicted of the crime and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Stone-Manning in May denied to the Senate committee that she had ever been the target of a criminal investigation and inaccurately described the tree spiking crime as an “alleged crime.”
In 2013, she testified that a “rather disturbed man” handed her the warning letter to mail and she did so because she “didn’t want anyone to be hurt” but did not know if trees had actually been spiked.
In responses to follow-up questions from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she reiterated her 2013 remarks and also wrote, “I do not recall ever discussing tree spiking with Mr. Blount or participating in any activities with Earth First! with Mr. Blount.”
The special agent assigned to the 1989 case, retired Forest Service criminal investigator Michael Merkley, wrote a letter to the Senate committee last week accusing Stone-Manning of lying. He asserted “she was not an innocent bystander” and that she knew about the tree spiking crime before it happened — and well before her 1993 testimony she gave with immunity protection — and that she helped in planning the crime.
Further reinforcing Merkley’s claim were comments from Blount, the individual convicted of tree spiking, who came forward to say that although Stone-Manning was not “heavily” involved in the planning and in the actual spiking of the trees, she had a central and “agreed-upon” role in the operation as the letter deliverer.
“She knew about it far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out,” Blount said. He also said, “She was supposed to mail the letter from Billings where she had planned on going in two or three more days, so that it wasn’t postmarked ‘Missoula.’ … That was the agreed-upon plan.”
Aside from her involvement in the tree spiking crime, Stone-Manning helped edit the Wild Rockies Review while in graduate school. The newsletter was a radical Earth First! publication that defended violent activity like tree spiking and other forms of monkeywrenching. The nominee also wrote a graduate thesis advocating for the creation of population control propaganda for environmental reasons, and then just last year, asked the University of Montana to lock the thesis from public access.
Manchin’s newly announced support for Stone-Manning came on the same day White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in one brief sentence that Biden “stands by” his nominee.
Should Stone-Manning’s nomination make it past the committee vote and to a full Senate vote, it would take all Republicans and one Democrat to sink her nomination as the upper chamber is split 50–50 by party, with Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any tied votes.
In March, a tied committee vote occurred with Biden’s now-secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. The Senate had to vote to discharge his nomination out of the committee to eventually be taken up by the full Senate. He was later confirmed 50–49.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans to vote on Stone-Manning’s nomination Thursday morning.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.