(LMNS) Tracy Stone-Manning, the President’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency that oversees 247 million acres of the nation’s federal lands, will be considered for BLM Director by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee this Thursday, July 22nd. If her nomination is passed out of committee, she will be set for confirmation in the full Senate, by majority vote. As it stands today, the one Democrat, Chairman Manchin, who has opposed two of the President’s previous controversial nominees, has signaled he will support her appointment.
The controversy surrounding Stone-Manning is rooted in her activism with the Ecoterrorist group, EarthFirst!. Leading up to Thursday’s hearing, she informed the Senators she was not a target of a 1989 investigation into an Idaho-based tree spiking campaign carried out by the organization’s members. The federal crime involved members conspiring to place spikes into hundreds of trees authorized to be harvested, so that when the trees were cut, the saws would hit the spikes destroying the blades and potentially wound the foresters. The investigation led to the federal conviction of two of Stone-Manning’s colleagues, after Stone-Manning cut an immunity deal and testified against the co-conspirators.
Throughout her career, she has claimed she was not directly involved in the crime, holding a staff position with the office of Senator Jon Tester, and later in 2013 confirmed as Montana’s Director of Environmental Quality under Gov. Steve Bullock. Currently, she is the associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation.
The Senate probe conducted by Republican committee members, has led to the submission of a 4-page report by the lead Federal investigator on the incident, which reveals Stone-Manning was much more involved in the crime than she has acknowledged.
Federal investigator Michael Merkley, who is a former Army veteran and was a criminal investigator for the USDA Forest Service for 27 years felt compelled to come forward after reading reports that Stone-Manning was leading the Senate and the public to believe she was not involved in the crime. In his letter to the committee, he provides detailed information about Stone-Manning’s involvement.
“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, most certainly was not a hero. Ms. Stone-Manning was not only a member of Earth First!, but she played an active role in the Earth First! hierarchy. … it was clear to those of us familiar with the activities of the group that she … wielded significant influence among its members.”
After investigating the tree spiking site and the local Earth First residence in Missoula, Montana, the evidence collected led to a federal grand jury issuing subpoenas. These were served on several suspects including Stone-Manning.
“Throughout this initial investigation in 1989, Ms. Stone-Manning was extremely difficult to work with; in fact, she was the nastiest of the suspects. She was vulgar, antagonistic and extremely anti-government. She was very uncooperative and refused to provide the hair, hand writing exemplars, and fingerprints as ordered by the federal grand jury. 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. However, she refused to answer any of my other questions. Eventually, after further investigation, I discovered that she had known all along who had perpetrated the crimes in the Clearwater National Forest.”
Merkely explains that it was only after another woman revealed Stone-Manning’s involvement to the FBI that she sought a plea deal which included immunity for testifying against the other perpetrators. The woman who had come forward said Ms. Stone-Manning had not only typed the warning letter sent to the Forest Service on the tree spiking, but that she had also heard the discussion on how they were planning to carry out the tree spiking. Merkely’s letter explains: “Ms. Stone-Manning along with other co-conspirators planned the tree spiking and discussed whether to use ceramic or metal spikes in the trees.”
Merkely has come forward at great risk to himself and his family. He retired from the Forest Service in 1997, after he and his family had been harassed by Earth First! members, including receiving death threats and being made aware “they had solicited a contract to kill me and harm my family.”
Ms. Stone-Manning’s affiliation with a known eco-terrorist group, and involvement in this criminal conspiracy should disqualify her to lead an agency charged with ensuring the multiple-uses and sustained yields of our nation’s federal lands. Her years opposing the productive uses of these lands for timber harvest, grazing and mineral extraction, should also disqualify her. But even more concerning is that she has most recently failed to be forthright with the Senators about her involvement in the tree-spiking crime.
Confirming Stone-Manning to the post of BLM Director will continue to solidify in the public mind that the Democratic party refuses to hold their own accountable to the laws they are charged with enforcing.
The Senate Committee confirmation hearing will be webcast live on the committee’s website this Thursday, July 22nd at 9:30 E.T.
Place a call to your Senators today to make them aware they should be voting to confirm candidates that have demonstrated they respect and will uphold the laws of our great nation. We also highly suggest you call Chairman Manchin’s office as well to encourage him oppose the nomination. You can look up your Senator’s contact information here.