Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin III plans to vote in favor of embattled Bureau of Land Management nominee Tracy Stone-Manning, despite disclosures about her role in a tree-spiking case that have rocked her nomination.
Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon confirmed in a Monday email that the West Virginia Democrat will back Ms. Stone-Manning to head the agency, all but ensuring that her nomination will squeak through the committee on a tie vote at Thursday’s meeting.
Every Republican on the committee urged President Biden last week to withdraw the pick over her involvement in a 1989 tree-spiking case in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest that saw her take a plea deal to testify against her friends in the radical environmental group Earth First!
Also opposing the nominee is Bob Abbey, who served as President Obama’s BLM director from 2009-12 and withdrew his support last month for Ms. Stone-Manning over the eco-sabotage incident.
Senate Republicans accused her of making “false and misleading” statements to the committee on her questionnaire by saying she had never been under federal investigation, an assertion that has since been disputed by the lead agent on the case.
Michael W. Merkley, a retired USDA Forest Service agent, said she was sent a “target letter” by the grand jury, which meant “she was going to be indicted on criminal charges,” after which she hired an attorney and negotiated a plea deal with the Assistant U.S. Attorney.
In a July 14 letter to the committee, Mr. Merkley cited a witness who said Ms. Stone-Manning not only mailed an anonymous letter to authorities warning of the tree-spiking, as she has admitted, but was also involved in planning the sabotage operation, which she has denied.
“Contrary to many of the stories in the news, Ms. Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim in the case,” said Mr. Merkley in the letter shared with The Washington Times. “And, she was most certainly not a hero.”
Ms. Stone-Manning testified in 1993 that she sought to protect loggers and forestry workers by agreeing to retype, edit and mail a letter from one of the perpetrators while she was a graduate student at the University of Montana.
She went on to work as regional director for Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, and then-Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
As BLM director, she would be in charge of managing 245 million acres of federal lands, including about 65 million acres of forests and woodlands.
Her nomination is one of five scheduled for action at Thursday’s hearing. A split vote would require Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to discharge her nomination for a floor vote.