Republican senators leading the charge against Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), introduced a bill on Wednesday to combat tree spiking after new information surfaced about Stone-Manning’s involvement in a tree spiking plot 30 years ago.
Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) proposed the Tree Spiking Mitigation Act to help reduce the dangers of spiked trees.
Tree spiking is both a form of sabotage and an act of ecoterrorism in which metal spikes are hammered into trees to prevent them from being harvested. Tree spikes, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, destroyed expensive logging equipment and can injure or kill loggers or millworkers processing the spiked trees.
When Stone-Manning was a graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula in 1989, she anonymously mailed a profane letter on behalf of John P. Blount, an individual in her “circle of friends,” alerting the U.S. Forest Service that trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest had been spiked. Despite being subpoenaed in 1989 along with six other individuals over the tree spiking, Stone-Manning did not come forward about her knowledge of the crime. She instead waited four years to come forward about the crime and only testified about it after she was named by Blount’s ex-wife in the crime and granted immunity in exchange for her testimony. Blount was convicted for the tree spiking and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Stone-Manning later admitted the immunity deal saved her from potentially being charged with conspiracy, according to a 1993 report in the Missoulian.
In the time period between the 1989 subpoena and her 1993 testimony, Stone-Manning helped edit an issue of the Earth First! journal that mocked federal authorities for not having solved the Idaho tree spiking case.
In her Senate committee questionnaire she filled out in May, she reported inaccuracies about the tree spiking crime, including that she was never investigated in 1989.
Barrasso, Risch, and many other Republicans have been adamant that Stone-Manning’s involvement in the crime and dishonesty surrounding it disqualify her from leading the BLM.
Barrasso sent Stone-Manning follow-up questions after her committee hearing in June asking about specifics related to the tree spiking incident that had come to light after her hearing, and Stone-Manning did not respond to his questions.
Ahead of the committee’s vote on Stone-Manning, Risch illustrated the dangers of tree spiking to his colleagues and heatedly condemned her nomination. He said, “If the Biden administration wants to have the face and the character of their administration represented by this individual, this attempted murderer, this perjurer, this liar, this conspirator … here’s your person. Confirm her.”
The committee vote on Stone-Manning ended up being deadlocked, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a vote to discharge the nomination out of the committee on Tuesday. All 50 Democrats voted to advance her nomination.
Now that her confirmation appears to be imminent, and could come as soon as Monday, Barrasso and Risch have introduced the tree spiking legislation to bring more attention to the issue and force the BLM, which Stone-Manning would direct if she were confirmed, to work “to detect, identify, and mitigate tree spikes on National Forests and public lands.”
Risch said of the legislation, “Eco-terrorists spiked trees in Idaho and across the West with the intent of injuring or killing people in the timber industry.” He continued:
Some of these spiked trees remain standing today, posing a danger to firefighters, smoke jumpers, loggers, and mill workers. It is extremely troubling that our land management agencies have no record of where these trees are or any plan to mitigate this serious safety issue. I am proud to introduce the Tree Spiking Mitigation Act with Senator Barrasso to clear our forests of these heinous acts and prevent any further harm coming to those who use and protect our forests.
Because the upper chamber is split 50–50 and all 50 Republicans are expected to vote against Stone-Manning, all 50 Democrats would need to vote to confirm her, and Vice President Kamala Harris would then be responsible for breaking a tied vote.
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