Controversial nominee nearing role to oversee federal lands

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 1:53 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Montanan Tracy Stone-Manning is just a step away from taking charge of the Bureau of Land Management, she only needs a full Senate confirmation vote.

Stone-Manning is the former head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

On Capitol Hill, she faced tough questioning and some deep opposition related to her recent work in 2020 with former Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s U.S. Senate campaign in his unsuccessful bit to unseat Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).

During her June confirmation hearing, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said to Stone-Manning, “It seems like your heart is that you don’t really particularly care for Republicans.”

Stone-Manning replied, “Elections can be tough, I was supporting my former boss Senator Bullock, but the election is over and I will honor the outcome.”

Stone-Manning was also deeply criticized by Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for her association with convicted eco-terrorists in the late 1980′s. She is accused of being associated with a group which drove metal spikes into trees in Idaho’s Clearwater Forest in 1989 — a tactic know as “tree spiking”. In a 1992 trial, Stone-Manning admitted the she wrote a letter on behalf of tree spikers to warn loggers not to cut down spiked trees. She also offered testimony in exchange for immunity which led to the federal convictions of others, but she was never charged with a crime.

During a July Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) accused Stone-Manning of lying to the committee about her role in the tree spiking case, and said, “It’s hard to imagine a nominee more disqualified than Tracy Stone-Manning. I strongly oppose her nomination and urge everyone on this committee to do the same.”

The committee advanced Stone-Manning’s nomination down party lines.

Committee Chairman, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), said in a statement, “I have taken very seriously all of the charges that have recently been leveled at Ms. Stone Manning. Tree spiking is a serious crime and the allegation that she may have been involved in tree spiking requires our serious attention… I have been unable to find any credible evidence in the exhaustive trial record of the tree spiking case that shows that Ms. Stone Manning was an ‘eco-terrorist,’ that she spiked any trees, that she conspired with ‘eco-terrorists’ to spike trees, or that she lied to the Committee.”

Manchin and other Democratic members of the committee did not respond to our request for interviews.

The Biden White House also maintains that Stone-Manning is the right person for the job. In an email, a White House official told us, “Tracy Stone-Manning is a dedicated public servant who has years of experience and a proven track record of finding solutions and common ground when it comes to our public lands and waters. She is exceptionally qualified to the be the next Director of the Bureau of Land Management.”

George Washington University professor Dr. Casey Burgat said the Senate majority essentially gets to decide what is and is not disqualifying for a nominee.

Burgat said, “When you are the president’s party and control the Senate and you want a nominee to go through, you can make it it could happen really really quickly.”

Burgat also discussed what Stone-Manning’s controversial confirmation battle could mean for her ability to get things done.

He said, “By all accounts she has a reputation for building bridges across parties, to go in there and use her skill set to do the job.”

The Senate has not set a date for the final confirmation vote.

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