30 Years Ago, Biden BLM Nominee Reported Spiked Trees, So GOP Sure She's A Terrorist
Congressional Republicans don't like it if you suggest that their votes to overturn the 2020 election put them in the same category as the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. True, many will then turn around and insist that the people who invaded the Capitol were simply constituents who wanted to confer with their elected representatives, but the point here is that the events of seven and a half months ago are so far in the past that they're hardly worth worrying about, so could we all please just move on and not get all bent out of shape over who did or didn't want to hang a vice president?
Naturally, several Republican senators have a slightly different take on the relevance of past actions when it comes to Tracy Stone-Manning, Joe Biden's nominee to run the Bureau of Land Management. You see, in 1989, when she was a grad student at the University of Montana, she typed up a letter to warn the US Forest Service that a group of environmental radicals had pounded spikes into trees in Idaho's Clearwater National Forest. A few years later, she went on to testify, with immunity, against two men who had been involved in the sabotage, and they were convicted.
So now Republicans are portraying Stone-Manning as unfit to serve as BLM director, calling her a dangerous eco-terrorist, you see. Forget nuances, like her help in convicting the guys who actually did the deed, or her testimony at the time that she knew nothing about the plot until after it was done and a friend asked her to send the letter. Because after all, moral lines are bright as day when they involve Democrats, especially since Stone-Manning would be in charge of overseeing Biden's moratorium on new coal and oil development on public lands, and in protecting a third of all US public land from development altogether.
All 10 GOP members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to oppose her nomination today, and all 10 Democrats voted to advance the nomination to the full Senate. Under Senate rules, the deadlock means that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can still move her nomination to the full Senate.
To be clear, as Colorado Public Radio (CPR) explains, tree spiking is seriously dangerous stuff:
Tree spiking is when a nail or a metal rod is driven into a tree, sometimes hidden in the bark. When a logger saws into the tree and hits the spike, it can shatter the chain saw and send shards of metal flying. Radical environmental groups used the tactic over the decades, in an effort to make it too unsafe to harvest timber in sensitive areas. [...]
In written testimony, Stone-Manning said she was not involved in the Idaho spiking operation and believes she was notifying the authorities by retyping and sending the warning letter written by others.
While she was a grad student in in environmental studies at U of Montana, Stone-Manning definitely hung out with the radical environmentalists in the Earth First! movement, although people who knew her at the time agree she never actively took part in any of the group's "monkey-wrenching" activities, named for and inspired by Ed Abbey's 1975 eco-sabotage novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang. The letter itself references the novel as well, as "George Hayduke" is one of Abbey's fictional eco-saboteurs:
You can still see "HAYDUKE LIVES!" bumper stickers on old Subaru wagons all around the West.
As CPR notes, the actual details on when Stone-Manning knew about the tree spiking are "muddy." While both of the guys convicted in the incident say she had no involvement in the tree spiking, one, John Blount, told E&E news that she knew about the plan and had agreed to send the letter as part of the plot. The other, Jeffery Fairchild, told the Washington Post that she only learned of the spiking after it happened, when she was asked to re-type the letter:
"Other than the mailing of the letter, Tracy knew nothing and was not involved," Jeff Fairchild, who spent two months in federal prison for the tree spiking, said in a phone interview from Tennessee, where he works for Amazon. "She was a bridge builder. She was a moderating voice in every discussion … She was always the one to say, 'Hey, look, loggers have families, too.' "
A third participant, Dan LaCrosse, who was arrested in the investigation but had his charges dropped, also told the Post that Stone-Manning "strongly disagreed with doing any stupid stuff like that. She was like, 'Never. Don't involve me,'" and that "She was the voice of reason on all that."
Since her grad school days, Stone-Manning has been far more of a mainstream environmental voice, serving as director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and as former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's chief of staff. She's currently an official with the National Wildlife Federation. The Washington Post says that she has
built a reputation for wrangling granola-munching green activists and ruby-red Republicans onto the same side of contentious public land issues, sometimes seeking compromise with industry, to the dismay of more liberal environmentalists.
The former student activist became an avid sportswoman who hunts birds with her springer spaniels and regularly fills her freezer with elk meat, according to friends. She is the daughter of Republicans, she said at her confirmation hearing last month, including a father who was a commander in the U.S. Navy.
Nevertheless, Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will vote today on her nomination, are certain that Stone-Manning was and might still be a wild-eyed radical, and that she was less of a whistleblower than a terrorist herself. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) says she "collaborated with eco-terrorists," and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told Fox News that Stone-Manning was unfit to run the BLM because of her "conspiring with criminals to make vile threats." You know, after the actual sabotage took place and, according to her and two of those involved, after she learned of it.
Also, let's not forget that during the confirmation hearings for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, John Barrasso tried to portray her as a "drug pusher" because she'd once suggested New Mexico might replace fossil-fuel revenues by taxing marijuana. If Stone-Manning is confirmed for BLM, Haaland will be her boss, and they can have a laugh over that.
Her Democratic supporters aren't especially worried about what Stone-Manning may have done in grad school, given her far more recent record as a consensus builder. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) replied to Barrasso during her confirmation hearing, "I would not be here today, introducing her, if I thought she was the person that you described. [...] This is a good person that has a good heart, that understands the value of our public lands." She also has the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D?-West Virginia), which may help.
Ultimately, the Republican opposition may have far more to do with current politics over public lands and fossil fuels than anything in her past, according to Aaron Weiss, the deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities in Denver:
"So they seized on this incident from 30 year ago, where Tracy did the right thing," he said. He wants Senators to instead look at what she has done over the course of her professional career. "She has a 30 year track record of working with all stakeholders to build solutions that work for the outdoors."
Schumer seems likely to be able to whip all 50 Senate Democrats to vote for Stone-Manning, with VP Kamala Harris to break a tie; if not, then Joe Biden may need to nominate someone else. If Stone-Manning is confirmed, we're betting her first official act as BLM director won't involve sailing a houseboat packed with TNT out on Lake Powell to blow up Glen Canyon Dam. After all, that sort of thing would fall under the purview of other Interior Department agencies like the National Park Service, or maybe the Bureau of Reclamation.
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