The Senate voted on Thursday to confirm President Joe Biden’s controversial nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Tracy Stone-Manning, in a 50–45 vote along party lines.
Stone-Manning’s affiliation with ecoterrorists and her role in a tree spiking plot from three decades ago resurfaced in June during her nomination process, resulting in a wave of objections to her nomination to lead the BLM, the agency overseeing vast swaths of federal land in mostly western states.
In addition to zero support from congressional Republicans, several counties in the West, national and state logger organizations, the Dallas Safari Club and Houston Safari Club, a former Obama administration BLM director, and a former Trump administration acting BLM director all spoke out against Stone-Manning’s nomination as the process played out.
Stone-Manning was a member of the environmental extremist group Earth First! while she was a graduate student 30 years ago at the University of Montana in Missoula, a hub for environmental activism in the ’80s and ’90s. The FBI identified the group as one of multiple radical groups that posed a domestic terrorist threat to the U.S.
After his 1996 arrest, Ted Kaczynski, commonly known as the Unabomber, praised the Earth First! journal and described himself as an “Earth Firster satellite.” Kaczynski’s cabin was located in Lincoln, Montana, under two hours from Missoula, and he said he would at times venture to the University of Montana to use the library there.
During her time at the University of Montana, the now-confirmed nominee became involved in a tree spiking operation. As Breitbart News reported, in 1989:
[Stone-Manning] mailed a letter to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of John P. Blount, an individual in her “circle of friends,” crudely alerting federal authorities that trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National 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.
After the Forest Service received the letter, the seven individuals who were subpoenaed — including Stone-Manning — were investigated in 1989 by a grand jury and required to submit fingerprints, as well as handwriting and hair samples. However, the 1989 grand jury did not uncover enough evidence to charge Blount or anyone else with the crime. The case was not solved until Blount’s ex-wife reported Blount to authorities three years later, and in doing so, also named Stone-Manning as the person who mailed the letter for him.
In exchange for immunity, Stone-Manning testified in the 1993 trial against Blount, who was convicted for the tree spiking crime and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Stone-Manning has repeatedly maintained her innocence in the ecoterrorist plot, saying she delivered the letter out of concern that someone would get hurt and that she did not actually know if trees had been spiked. Details that emerged during her nomination process, however, brought new context to the tree spiking chain of events that were damning for Stone-Manning.
Stone-Manning, for instance, was found to have edited a 1991 issue of the Earth First! journal that included an article mocking federal authorities for their inability to solve the tree spiking crime that she herself was involved in. This fact suggests Stone-Manning withheld knowledge about the dangerous crime as it would be another two years before she came forward about it.
Additionally, both Blount, the individual convicted in the case, and retired Forest Service special agent Michael Merkley, the lead investigator in the case, delivered corroborating accounts of the ecoterrorist plot during the nomination process.
Blount alleged Stone-Manning “knew about [the tree spiking plot] far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out” and that she had actively agreed to mail the letter for him before he spiked the trees.
Merkley stated Stone-Manning “was not an innocent bystander” in the tree spiking plan. He said Stone-Manning did not cooperate with the 1989 grand jury investigation or testify truthfully to the grand jury of her knowledge and role in the tree spiking. Merkley described her as “extremely difficult to work with; in fact, she was the nastiest of the suspects. She was vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government.”
Aside from her ecoterrorism involvement, opposition to Stone-Manning also stemmed from extremist views she held such as those found in her master’s thesis. In the thesis, she advocated for the creation of population control propaganda. Nearly 30 years after she wrote the thesis, in June 2020, Stone-Manning requested the University of Montana restrict access to it.
The controversial thesis featured one ad stating, “When we have children, the planet feels it more. Do the truly smart thing. Stop at one or two kids.” Another read, “Stop at two. It could be the best thing you do for the planet.” The latter advertisement, which identified “overpopulation” as a “problem” in America, featured a photo of a child with the caption, “Can you find the environmental hazard in this photo?”
‘Stop At Two’: Biden BLM Nominee Argued For Population Control In Graduate Thesis
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) June 24, 2021
In another instance of Stone-Manning pushing population control, the soon-to-be BLM head warned in an article in High Country News in 1991 that humans have “annexed too much space” and that they were therefore threatening the grizzly bear population.
Last year, Stone-Manning also promoted an article her husband wrote in 2018 stating that firefighters ought to let some houses threatened by wildfires burn. She posted the article to her social media and called its message a “clarion call.”
Stone-Manning’s nomination appeared to be unraveling during the summer, but after a tense Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting on July 22, moderate Democrat and committee chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — a crucial make-or-break vote — voted in favor of her nomination, signaling Stone-Manning had a path forward. While the committee vote was deadlocked 10–10, the full Senate voted to discharge her nomination from the committee so that it could still be considered.
Manchin at the time chalked Stone-Manning’s Earth First! membership and role in the ecoterrorist crime to her being a “youthful sympathizer of the environment.”
“Look around the room at all the youth we have here, all of the interns we have, all of our staff, look at the youth,” Manchin said. “Don’t look at us. Look at the youth, and I think about Tracy Stone-Manning as being a youthful sympathizer for the environment.”
In the committee meeting, one of the more outspoken senators against Stone-Manning’s nomination, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), used a tree spike as a visual as he gave scathing remarks about her nomination:
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, if that’s what you want in the administration, and that’s what you want for the face of the administration, here’s your person. Confirm her.
In an op-ed for Breitbart News, William Perry Pendley, the acting head of the BLM under former President Donald Trump, described Stone-Manning as an “unrepentant … domestic terrorist”:
Before all her lies were exposed, Stone-Manning asserted that she did the right thing by mailing the letter as Blount requested,” Pendley wrote. “She did not do the right thing. The right thing would have been to contact the FBI or the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Attorney for Idaho.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and perhaps the most vocal senator in opposing Stone-Manning, asserted in a statement following her confirmation that “she still holds radically dangerous views”:
Senate Democrats just voted to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning to lead @BLMNational. She colluded with eco-terrorists. She stone-walled a criminal investigation for years. She lied to the Senate. And she still holds radically dangerous views. https://t.co/6UfH3DzQNl
— Sen. John Barrasso (@SenJohnBarrasso) October 1, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) celebrated the confirmation, declaring that “in the years to come” the BLM “will play an even greater role in fighting the climate crisis”:
The Senate just confirmed Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management @BLMNational!
Few agencies are as important for protecting and promoting our public lands. And in the years to come, @BLMNational will play an even greater role in fighting the climate crisis.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 1, 2021
The BLM manages an estimated 245 million acres of public lands and 700 million acres of mineral lands. Stone-Manning will be the first in more than four years to officially serve as head of the agency.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.