BILLINGS, Mont. – President Joe Biden’s nominee to oversee federal lands in the U.S. West is facing Republican pressure to withdraw over her ties to environmental activists convicted of spiking trees to sabotage a national forest timber sale more than 30 years ago.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, the ranking Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Friday that U.S. Bureau of Land Management nominee Tracy Stone-Manning should be disqualified for her collaboration with “extreme environmental activists.”
As a 23-year-old graduate student at the University of Montana, Stone-Manning sent a letter to federal officials in 1989 saying spikes had been inserted into trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest. The profanity-laced letter warned “a lot of people could get hurt" if logging proceeded, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press from federal archives.
Spiking trees involves inserting metal or ceramic rods into trunks so they can't be safely cut down, and the tactic has sometimes been used to halt timber sales.
Stone-Manning testified against two friends who were convicted in the case, saying she mailed the letter at the request of one of them and to prevent people from getting hurt. She was given immunity to testify and was never charged with any crimes.
The case received extensive media coverage at the time, and Stone-Manning years later had to explain her involvement to Montana lawmakers prior to her confirmation to lead the state’s environment agency under former Gov. Steve Bullock.
Its resurfacing comes as some Republicans have sought to undermine Stone-Manning's nomination, characterizing her as a partisan Democrat and environmental radical.
Barrasso, of Wyoming, said after seeing the documents in the case that Stone-Manning's participation should disqualify her from heading the Bureau of Land Management, which regulates grazing, energy drilling, logging and other activities across 245 million acres (100 million hectares) primarily in the West.