WASHINGTON – Democrats prepare to face Tracy Stone-Manning’s nomination to head the Office of Territorial Administration, despite united opposition from Republicans who have labeled him an ecoterrorist because of his involvement in an episode of trees. graduate student in the 1980s.
The vote on his nomination, scheduled for Thursday in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, establishes a battle between Republicans and Democrats for an agency at the center of climate policy.
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency of the Department of the Interior that oversees the grazing, logging and drilling of 245 million acres of public land and manages 700 million acres of mineral rights. It is responsible for balancing the extraction of oil, gas and coal with the recreation and protection of natural resources. It is also key to President Biden’s goal of phasing out oil and gas drilling on federal lands, a plan that is being challenged by 15 states led by Republican attorneys general.
“The concerns a lot of people have about the Stone-Manning nomination is that it will be more in favor of protecting public land for public use, and people who want public land to be used for further development don’t like it.” , Said Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resource law at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“These other issues are being used as a way to block your confirmation,” he said. “I don’t think anyone cares what he did 32 years ago.”
Stone-Manning, 55, has pursued a career in environmental policy, working as an aide to Montana Sen. Jon Tester and as chief of staff to former Montana government executive Steve Bullock, both Democrats, as well as the head of Montana. Montana. environmental agency, where it earned the reputation of building bridges between environmentalists, ranchers and fossil fuel interests. She is currently the senior conservation policy advisor to the National Wildlife Federation, a non-profit conservation group.
But Republicans argue that her actions in 1989 and the account of this episode in later years make her unfit for office. They wrote to President Biden asking him to withdraw his candidacy and plan to vote against it as a bloc on the committee.
Republicans also fought against the election of Home Secretary Deb Haaland, the first secretary of the Indigenous cabinet, because of her opposition to the expansion of oil and gas drilling into public lands. Although Ms. Haaland narrowly obtained confirmation, this process turned into a power struggle for climate policy.
Conservatives were more successful in March by forcing the Biden administration to withdraw its election for Home Secretary Elizabeth Klein after coal and oil senators opposed the belief in the Mrs. Klein that the nation must curb the use of fossil fuels.
“Oil and gas, coal, these industries are declining or facing severe declines,” said John Leshy, professor emeritus of law at the University of California at Hastings.
He attributed it to market forces rather than government policies, but said the Home Office had become the place where the fiercest battles for the future of these industries are currently unfolding.
“There’s a lot of frustration related to that,” Leshy said. “And we’re at a time when these frustrations have come to the fore.”
Stone-Manning has never been charged with a crime and was not involved in the three-decade-old effort to drive 500 pounds of metal spikes into the trees of the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, federal crimes for which he later two men were convicted.
Tree pruning is a tactic to try to prevent felling by inserting metal bars into trees that could damage a saw blade. It was used in the 1980s by activists who hoped to make it cheap to cut down trees, but the practice was dangerous; spikes can injure or kill loggers.
Ms. Manning, then a 23-year-old graduate student, wrote again and mailed a profanity letter to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of one of the activists who harvested the trees. Stone-Manning has described his act as an effort to warn authorities and protect people from harm.
Republicans have accused Ms. Stone-Manning of lying to lawmakers about whether she had ever been the target of an investigation, an allegation the administration has denied.
The 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee are expected to be evenly distributed along the party line. This would force New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, to unload the candidacy, a measure that was rarely used and would lead him to vote in the full Senate. If the Senate is also split on the party line, Democrats would need Vice President Harris to break the tie.
The White House issued a statement this week in support of Ms. Stone-Manning.
“Tracy Stone-Manning is a dedicated official who has years of experience and a proven track record of finding solutions and points in common with regard to our public lands and waters,” said White House spokesman Vedant Patel. “She is exceptionally qualified to be the next director of the Bureau of Land Management.”
Republicans say new statements from figures involved in the growth episode indicate that Ms. Stone-Manning was more involved than she claimed to have been.
“We now know that President Biden’s candidate to head the Bureau of Land Management lied to the Senate about his alleged involvement in ecoterrorism,” Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, the Republican leader said in a statement. “The White House should immediately withdraw its candidacy.”
Mr Tester said the allegations against Mrs Stone-Manning “damaged politics”.
“The Tracy Stone-Manning I know is someone who has spent the last 20 years and brought people from both sides of the aisle from all components of the industry,” he said.
According to court documents, in the spring of 1989, when Ms. Stone-Manning was a graduate student in environmental studies at the University of Montana in Missoula, Earth First! Activists, including John Blount and Jeffrey Fairchild, threw hundreds of pounds of old tree nails in the Idaho forest an attempt to stop the sale of timber.
Then, Ms. Stone-Manning testified, Mr. Blount asked her to email him a letter warning him to the Forest Service, which he did after rewriting it. She later told prosecutors that it was the first time she had learned to prick the trees and that she had “surprised” her.
In 1993, Mrs. Stone-Manning testified against Mr. Fairchild and Mr. Blount in exchange for immunity.
Last week, Michael W. Merkley, a retired U.S. Forest Service investigator who was the special agent in charge of the case, wrote to Senate lawmakers and said that when the government initially investigated the crime of chopping down trees, Mrs. Stone-Manning was not helpful and combative. She also said she received an “objective letter” indicating that she would be charged in connection with her involvement.
“Madam. Stone-Manning appeared only after her lawyer signed the immunity agreement and not before she was captured,” Merkley said.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, cites this and an interview Ms. Stone-Manning granted in 1990 as evidence that she lied in response to written questions from the committee that they asked him if he had ever done so. has been the target of a criminal investigation.
“She is an ecoterrorist,” Barrasso said in an interview, adding, “She has lied to the committee, she has deceived the committee regarding her behavior and past investigations.”
Mr. Fairchild, who spent time in prison for his role in the tree felling incident, defended Stone-Manning when he arrived by phone.
“Having been one of the top participants in this event and one of the top planners, I remember, I didn’t know anything about it before,” Fairchild said.
Fairchild added that within her circle of friends committed to environmental action, Ms Manning was known to oppose violence.
“Tracy was always a moderating voice,” he said. “We were talking about ending deforestation, and she was the first to say, ‘Yes, but loggers have families, too.’
Tester said he was not worried about the allegations either. “We have the votes to confirm it,” he said.
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