Republican senators took advantage of Thursday’s hearing on the U.S. Forest Service budget to torch Tracy Stone-Manning, President Biden’s pick to head the Bureau of Land Management, over her connection to a notorious tree-spiking case.
Forest Service chief Victoria Christiansen confirmed that tree-spiking, an eco-sabotage tactic to stop timber sales, represents a physical danger to loggers, firefighters and forestry workers as she testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing.
“So if someone were made aware of a tree-spiking incident on a national forest, should that person immediately alert the police or the Forest Service?” asked Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, and ranking member.
Ms. Christiansen replied in the affirmative, prompting Mr. Barrasso to respond that Ms. Stone-Manning “was presented with this very choice and decided not to do the right thing and go to the authorities.”
He read from Thursday’s front-page article in The Washington Times, “Tree spiking case haunts nominee for public lands,” and submitted articles on the episode from the Wall Street Journal, Daily Caller and Fox News.
Ms. Stone-Manning has made no public comment as Republicans hammer her 1989 decision to mail an anonymous letter to the Forest Service warning about spiked trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest at the request of one of the perpetrators.
She testified against the suspects in a 1993 federal trial after striking an immunity deal with prosecutors.
The episode did not prevent her from attaining high-level posts with Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, and former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, or from heading the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
Mr. Barrasso, however, said he believed that the incident should take her out of the running to head the federal agency that forest-management agency.
“Mr. Chairman, it is my belief that she is clearly disqualified to be the director of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages almost 65 million acres of federal forests,” Mr. Barrasso said.
Sen. Jim Risch, Idaho Republican, said that Ms. Stone-Manning “conspired and participated with these tree spikers,” and asked Ms. Christiansen whether the Forest Service has taken steps to remove the spikes from the timber stand, known as the Post Office sale.
“The Post Office sale has trees still standing that have tree spikes in them,” he said. “Do you have any kind of program as far as trying to root out which of trees – they tell me some of the spikes are 150 feet off of the ground - do you have any kind of program that addresses those trees that are still standing and will be there for a long time, perhaps generations?”
Ms. Christiansen said she was unaware of such a program, but would get back to him.
“I ask that because this is a serious issue, and this woman who’s been nominated I’m very much opposed to,” Mr. Risch said. “One of my good Democrat friends conceded, ‘yeah, she made a mistake some decades back.’ Tree spiking is not a mistake.”
Mr. Bullock has defended Ms. Stone-Manning, his former chief of staff, telling the AP she “helped send a guy to prison 30 years ago when she was a college kid” — technically, she was in graduate school — while she has previously said she mailed the letter to protect forest workers.
The retyped letter gave a description of the area and warned, “You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt.”
In her 1993 testimony, she said “I didn’t want anybody getting hurt as a result of trees being spiked.”
She told the Missoulian in 2013 that she retyped the letter on a rented typewriter because she realized her fingerprints were on it.
“The easy thing to do would have been to burn that letter and walk away and not be associated with it, but that was the wrong thing to do because trees were spiked and somebody could be hurt when the loggers were sent in,” she said. “So I mailed the letter.”