Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah and Mitt Romney, R-Utah have opposed President Biden’s nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management due to her association with tree spiking in the late 1980s. The BLM manages 245 million acres of federal land; Utah’s 22.8 million acres of public land constitute 42% of the state.
“The Bureau of Land Management is something that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, but it has a huge amount of control over the entire western United States where there’s a lot of public land,” Sen. Lee told Fox News. “We can’t allow this nominee to be confirmed.”
In 1989, Stone-Manning penned an anonymous letter to the United States Forest Service reporting that hundreds of trees designated for logging in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest had been spiked, a technique used by environmental activists that can shatter chain saws used for logging.
The letter stated that the Clearwater National Forest was “very special to the earth” and that the tree spikers — members of the environmental advocacy organization Earth First! — had marked the trees that were spiked to prevent hurting loggers.
A grand jury investigation was conducted and Stone-Manning testified against two tree spikers who were sentenced to time in federal prison. Stone-Manning wrote in testimony that she was not involved in the tree spiking and that her letter to the Forest Service at the time was her way of reporting the crime.
Jeff Fairchild, one of the two men convicted for the incident, said that “other than the mailing of the letter, Tracy knew nothing and was not involved.”
But Michael Merkley, the now-retired lead investigator for the case, wrote to the Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources that “Ms. Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim.”
Merkley wrote that he believed Stone-Manning led the Earth First! group; he also stated that she was extremely difficult to work with, calling her “the nastiest of the suspects” and “vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government.”
Romney spokeswoman Arielle Mueller said on July 19 that the Utah senator does not support Stone-Manning’s nomination.
“Sen. Romney is extremely troubled by Ms. Stone-Manning’s past involvement in eco-terrorism and believes that her dishonesty about participation in these activities during testimony before the Senate disqualifies her from serving as the director of the Bureau of Land Management,” she said.
Neil Kornze and Jim Baca, former BLM directors, have pointed to Stone-Manning’s work as a senior advisor to Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) and as director of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality as qualifications for the job.
On July 22, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 10-10 along party lines on Stone-Manning’s nomination to the role of BLM director. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that he plans to send the issue to the full Senate.