President Biden‘s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning, is facing renewed accusations that she misled Congress about being investigated for her role in a 1989 ecoterrorism plot.
The allegations stem from Ms. Stone-Manning‘s written responses earlier this year on a questionnaire from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has purview over the BLM nominations.
The questionnaire asked whether she had “ever been investigated, arrested, or charged by any federal, state or local law enforcement authority for the violation of any federal, state, or local law, regulation, or ordinance, other than a minor traffic offense.”
Ms. Stone-Manning wrote that she had “never been arrested or charged and to my knowledge, I have never been the target of such an investigation.”
Two recently resurfaced interviews the nominee gave in 1990, however, suggest to Republican lawmakers that she misled Congress. In particular, lawmakers believe that Ms. Stone-Manning failed to inform them that she was investigated by the Justice Department for her role in an Idaho tree-spiking case in the 1980s.
The evidence that she knew that she was targeted in an investigation rests on comments Ms. Stone-Manning made in interviews with local Montana newspapers in 1990.
The first interview was given to the Montana Great Falls Tribune in August of that year. Ms. Stone-Manning told the paper she had been investigated by federal authorities over the tree-spiking case.
“It was degrading. It changed my awareness of the power of government,” said Ms. Stone-Manning, then going by her maiden name. “Yes, this was happening to me and not someone in Panama. And, yes, the government does bad things sometimes.”
At the time of the interview, Ms. Stone-Manning was a graduate student at the University of Montana and a member of the radical environmentalist group Earth First! In 1989, members of the group attempted to stop a timber sale in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest by hammering 500 pounds of metal spikes into trees scheduled to be cut down.
“Tracy Stone-Manning lied to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by claiming the tree spiking was ‘alleged’ and that she was never investigated,” Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the committee’s top Republican, told The Washington Times. “Now, we have confirmation that neither of those things are true. President Biden must withdraw her nomination.”
The White House did not respond to questions about whether Ms. Stone-Manning misled the committee. Attempts to contact Ms. Stone-Manning were unsuccessful.
Last month, the White House reasserted its support for the nominee after Obama-era BLM Director Bob Abbey pulled his support for her over the tree-spiking case.
“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,” a White House official said at the time.
Ms. Stone-Manning‘s role in the ecoterrorism scheme came to light when a member of the group acknowledged that she mailed a “crudely” worded letter warning the U.S. Forest Service of the sabotage.
Federal law enforcement took the threat seriously as tree-spiking had become a federal felony the year prior. The designation came after a widely publicized case in which a spike from a sabotaged tree hit a California sawmill worker in the head and severed his jaw in half
Both the letter authored by Ms. Stone-Manning and evidence from the scene of the crime — a sweater, hair samples and a handwritten note — pointed to Earth First! In October 1989, the U.S. attorney for the district of Idaho subpoenaed Ms. Stone-Manning and six other members of the group.
Under subpoena, Ms. Stone-Manning was made to testify about the incident and provide DNA evidence. The case went nowhere as Ms. Stone-Manning and others continued to deny wrongdoing.
“They were on a fishing expedition and while they were fishing they took advantage of intimidation,” Ms. Stone-Manning told the Missoulian in October 1990 in another interview about the case.
Eventually, Ms. Stone-Manning‘s role in the plot was exposed.
In 1992, the common-law wife of John Blount, an Earth First! member, told the FBI that he was responsible for the Idaho tree-spiking incident. Mr. Blount’s wife also identified Mrs. Stone-Manning as the individual who had mailed the letter warning the Forest Service.
Ms. Stone-Manning agreed to testify against Mr. Blount and another member of Earth First! in exchange for immunity from prosecution for her role.
In the years following, Ms. Stone-Manning built a lucrative career as an environmental and political activist in Montana.
Between 2007 and 2012, she served as a high-ranking senior adviser to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. In 2013, she was tapped by Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to lead the state’s department of environmental quality.
When President Biden took office this year, he named Ms. Stone-Manning to lead the BLM, which manages more than 65 million acres of forest and woodlands across 12 western states and Alaska.
Her nomination, however, is imperiled because of her past membership within the eco-terrorist group. Ms. Stone-Manning has sought to downplay the 1989 incident, refusing to discuss the matter in-depth during a Senate Energy Committee hearing last month.
Republicans say that the nominee outright lied to Congress about the matter. They note that in her official questionnaire, only one reference was made to the tree-spiking case, with the nominee writing she “testified before a federal grand jury” as part of “investigation into an alleged tree-spiking incident related to a timber sale.”
GOP lawmakers also note that Ms. Stone-Manning did not disclose that she was privy to an immunity deal for her testimony against Mr. Blount and others.
“Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with eco-terrorists who had booby-trapped trees with metal spikes. She mailed the threatening letter for them and she was part of the cover-up,” said Mr. Barrasso. “She did not cooperate with investigators until she was caught.”