Some Republicans call new BLM director eco-terrorist
Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) are the senators who did not vote on September 30 to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning as the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Stone-Manning was confirmed on a 50-45 party line vote.
According to Western Justice founder Dave Duquette, the consequences are dire, especially for states that routinely interact with the BLM.
“They missed a huge opportunity by not voting on her and forcing (Vice President) Kamala Harris to be the deciding vote, voting to confirm an ecoterrorist to lead the BLM,” Duquette said. “This could have been stopped. This should be a wake-up call for the western United States.”
In July of 2021, retired USDA Forest Service Special Agent criminal investigator Michael Merkley penned a letter to Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Merkley said he was compelled to come forward with information about Stone-Manning after some news outlets had represented her as “a bystander or a victim.”
In his 28 years with the Forest Service, he was assigned to investigate a number of crimes committed on federal lands. In 1989, he was assigned to investigate the spiking of trees in a portion of the Post Office Timber Sale in the Clearwater National Forest.
That spring, the supervisor of the Clearwater National Forest in Orofino, Idaho, received an anonymous letter alleging that trees in the timber sale area had been spiked. More than just damage to government property, spiking is done with the goal of preventing loggers from cutting down the trees, and present significant danger to loggers when the chains strike the concealed spikes.
Merkley said in the course of his investigation, he obtained and carried out a search warrant for a residence known as the Sherwood House, identified as the local Earth First! residence in Missoula, Montana. Members of the activist group were identified as the ones responsible for teaching a tree spiking seminar at the University of Montana, and evidence was seized during that search that linked the activists to the event and the tree spiking.
Merkley said he presented the evidence to Assistant U.S. Attorney George Brietsmeter, which resulted in grand jury subpoenas for hair samples, handwriting exemplars, and fingerprints. One of the subpoenas, he said, was served on Stone-Manning.
He said Stone-Manning was the “nastiest of the suspects” and was “vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government” in addition to being uncooperative, initially refusing to provide the samples as ordered by the federal grand jury.
Merkley said in late 1992, Guenevere Lilburn contacted the FBI in Boston and came forward with information with regard to the tree spiking incident, naming Stone-Manning and others. Merkley said Lilburn’s testimony led to the grand jury notifying Stone-Manning that she would be indicted on criminal charges for her active participation in the tree spiking on federal lands. In December of 1992, Stone-Manning was named as the activist who wrote and sent the threatening letter to the Forest Service in 1989.
“Let me be clear,” Merkley said. “Ms. Stone-Manning came forward only after her attorney struck the immunity deal, and not before she was caught, At no time did she come forward of her own volition, and she was never entirely forthcoming. She was aware that she was being investigated in 1989 and again in 1993 when she agreed to the immunity deal with the government to avoid criminal felony prosecution. I know, because I was the Special Agent in Charge of the investigation.”
Merkley retired from the Forest Service in 1997 and said he received a number of letters of appreciation and recognition for his service. He said his experiences with Earth First! led, at least partially, to his decision to retire early.
“During the last years of my career with the Forest Service, this eco-terrorist organization harassed me and my family,” he said. “In fact, I received death threats from them and at one point was made aware that they had solicited a contract to kill me and harm my family.”
Merkley said now, even 25 years later, he remains concerned for his safety but was compelled to come forward as Stone-Manning was evaluated as a candidate for the director of the BLM position.
“I am grateful to the lead investigator for providing the committee with all of the facts of the case,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, the ranking member of the committee. “Not only did Tracy Stone-Manning collaborate with ecoterrorists, she also helped plan the tree spiking in Clearwater National Forest. She has been covering up these actions for decades, including on her sworn affidavit to the committee. This new information confirms that Tracy Stone-Manning lied to the committee that she was never a target of an investigation. The nominee has no business leading the Bureau of Land Management. President Biden must withdraw her nomination and if he does not, the Senate must vote it down.”
Every Republican on the Senate Energy Committee signed a letter in July to President Biden urging him to withdraw her nomination. The letter said Stone-Manning made “false and misleading statements in a sworn statement” to the committee regarding her involvement in the tree spiking incident that put lives at risk.
Stone-Manning has said publicly that she did not take part in the tree-spiking. The New York Times said Ms. Stone-Manning, as a graduate student in Montana at the time, retyped and mailed a letter to the United States Forest Service on behalf of one of the activists who spiked the trees. She later testified, helping to convict two of the men involved, and has described her action as trying to warn the authorities.“
Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico testified, “I have been unable to find any credible evidence in the exhaustive records of the tree-spiking case that Ms. Stone-Manning is an eco-terrorist,” Mr. Manchin said, adding, “What I find instead is compelling evidence that she built a solid reputation over the past three decades as a dedicated public servant and problem solver.”
The White House released the following biography of Stone-Manning when introducing her as the BLM Director candidate:
“Tracy Stone-Manning has spent her career devoted to public service and conservation. As senior advisor for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation, she advocates for the wise stewardship of our nation’s lands and waters. Before joining the Federation, she served as Montana Governor Bullock’s chief of staff, where she oversaw day-to-day operations of his cabinet and the state’s 11,000 employees. She stepped into that post after serving as the Director of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, overseeing the state’s water, air, mining and remediation programs. She served as a regional director and senior advisor to Senator Jon Tester during his first term, focusing on forestry issues. Early in her career, she led the Clark Fork Coalition, a regional conservation group, as it advocated successfully for Superfund cleanups that created thousands of jobs and revitalized a river. The group also co-owned and managed a cattle ranch in the heart of the Superfund site.
“Raised in a big, Navy family — her dad commanded a submarine – she was guided into public service from childhood. She is a backpacker, hunter and singer, and has been married to the writer Richard Manning for 30 years. She lives in Missoula, Montana and holds a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and an B.A. from the University of Maryland.”
According to a letter Sen. Barasso sent to the committee, Stone-Manning (on her committee questionnaire) said she was never the subject of a criminal investigation and that the case was an “alleged” tree spiking. In court testimony obtained by the committee, Stone-Manning admitted she edited, retyped, and sent a letter to the US Forest Service on behalf of the eco-terrorists. The court documents also confirm that hundreds of trees were spiked. Some of these trees remain a danger to loggers, Forest Service employees, and fire fighters. The spikes cause damage to saws used to cut down or split wood, and because of this, can also be dangerous to loggers and sawmill workers.
The first BLM director to serve in the Obama administration, Robert Abbey, said the incident ought to preclude her from serving as the BLM’s leader, saying Stone-Manning brings “needless controversy that isn’t good for the agency or the public lands it oversees.”
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