President Barack Obama’s first Bureau of Land Management director has pulled his support for Tracy Stone-Manning, saying she should withdraw her nomination to head the agency over her involvement in a tree-spiking case three decades ago.
Bob Abbey, who led the agency from 2009-2012, said he initially supported her selection, but that recent reports about her “questionable past” raise questions about her judgment and would bring “needless controversy” to the agency charged with managing 245 million acres of federal lands.
“If the reports regarding Ms. Stone-Manning’s involvement with spiking trees are true then I firmly believe she should immediately withdraw her name from further consideration for the BLM director job,” Mr. Abbey told The Washington Times in an email.
In her 1993 federal court testimony, Ms. Stone-Manning admitted to retyping, editing and mailing an anonymous warning letter on behalf of an activist who had participated in an extensive tree-spiking operation in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest.
She received prosecutorial immunity to testify against the activist, who was found guilty and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
“My position is if she participated in any aspect of planning, implementing, or attempting to cover up the spiking incident on timberlands managed by the US Forest Service then she should not be confirmed,” Mr. Abbey said.
Ms. Stone-Manning has not commented publicly on the incident since her nomination by President Biden, but she has previously said that she sought to protect loggers and forestry workers by sending the profanity-laced letter, which warned authorities about the spiked trees and described their location.
“I didn’t want anybody getting hurt as a result of trees being spiked,” she told the court.
Her critics, led by Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, argue that Ms. Stone-Manning, who was then in graduate school at the University of Montana, should have turned in the activist to law enforcement instead of helping conceal his identity.
Mr. Abbey, a founding partner at the energy and environmental consulting firm Abbey, Stubbs & Ford, said he was concerned about how the episode would reflect on the BLM.
“Over the years Ms. Stone-Manning has worked in positions which made her a good candidate. In fact, I had originally lent my support for her nomination,” Mr. Abbey said. “Yet with the recent news and her responses to questions pertaining to her involvement in an activity that could have led to severe injuries or possible deaths to career public servants reflect badly on her judgment.”
He continued: “If she is confirmed, her past actions will only bring needless controversy to future decisions she might make as BLM director. My current opposition to her confirmation is based on what I believe is best for the agency over the long term.”
Ms. Stone-Manning joined the radical environmental group Earth First! in graduate school, but went on to serve as regional director for Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat; chief-of-staff for former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and head of the state Department of Environmental Quality.
She now holds a senior advisor post with the National Wildlife Federation and served on the board of the Montana Conservation Voters, which said in a June 8 statement that there was “no better person to lead the BLM.”
“Tracy Stone-Manning has spent her career devoted to public service and conservation,” the White House April 22 news release said. “As senior advisor for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation, she advocates for the wise stewardship of our nation’s lands and waters.”
Given her involvement in the tree-spiking episode, however, Mr. Abbey said that her nomination “doesn’t make much sense to me.”
“The BLM’s success is based on finding the right balance between appropriate development and conservation on public lands,” he said. “This is a challenge for the agency as well as for nearby communities who are dependent on these same public lands. While this challenge is daunting, I believe the greatest challenge facing agency personnel today is earning back the public’s trust.”
He concluded: “Having someone with a questionable past assume the highest leadership position in the agency may be ok with the White House Personnel Director but it doesn’t make much sense to me.”
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s schedule for next week does not include a vote on Ms. Stone-Manning’s nomination, even though the panel has typically voted on nominees within two weeks of their confirmation hearings, the Daily Montanan reported.
Her confirmation hearing before the committee was June 8.