Tracy Stone-Manning’s confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop

The U.S. Senate has a duty to assess nominees for critical positions at agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. We all saw firsthand in the previous administration how acting directors and illegal appointees sidestepped the Senate and made decisions that left the Bureau and other agencies worse for wear.

The Senate, however, needs to treat these “advise and consent” responsibilities seriously and with respect.

That’s what makes it so hard to watch the confirmation process for Tracy Stone-Manning, who is nominated for director of U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Senators from Western states have subject her to relentless vitriolic and baseless attacks. Sen Jim Risch (R-Idaho) even accused her of having a “a black, abandoned and malignant heart.” Needless to say — behavior unfit for the upper chamber.

How Stone-Manning has been treated is exceptional, but it is hardly unique. The past few weeks are reminiscent of Deb Haaland’s treatment after being nominated to serve as Secretary of the Interior. In both instances, these accomplished women have been treated with excessive viciousness, labeled as “radical” and “extremist” — even as those words had no bearing on either woman’s record. 

Stone-Manning is the opposite of “radical” and “extremist.” Having worked on conservation projects together, it’s clear she goes out of her way to find ways to collaborate and build coalitions. She has spent her 30-year career working in the middle of some of the thorniest conservation issues that have faced our public lands and waters. She has done the hard work of relationship building so that hunters and anglers, loggers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers and conservationists could develop a land management plan that everyone could be proud of. 

She’s done that kind of thing over and over and over again during her professional career. Yet, somehow the only thing Republican senators want to focus on — in their floor speeches, press releases and the more than 350 written questions they sent her — is her year in grad school more three decades ago.

It seems, they knew they couldn’t take on her career, so they have attempted to bury it. It’s the type of erasure many women experience throughout our lives and careers — when defined by men based on our looks, pregnancy, caregiving for others or the views of our spouses.

For example, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) hasn’t pressed men nominated to senior roles at the Interior Department on their attire in their 20s as he did to Stone-Manning, asking “did you wear a sweater?” Nor did he inquire about the views of their spouses, asking “have you further commented, either orally or in writing, including tweets or other social media postings, on any of your husband’s other writings?” He also hasn’t pressed male nominees on personal finances, as he did asking “did you receive an inheritance in 2020? If so, what was the amount?” 

These badgering questions and tactics have zero bearing on whether Stone-Manning is qualified to lead the agency that manages more than 245 million acres of our public lands. It seems those questions are designed solely to belittle this nominee, her achievements and her career. They’re designed to shift attention away from the issues that matter in the management of our public lands and toward salacious headlines. 

These attacks are wrong — and in my view, they’re abusive and sexist — and they need to stop. In the case of this and other nominations, the Senate — the world’s most deliberative body — is not acting in its role to advise and consent.

It’s time for Republican lawmakers to treat female nominees with the same respect they show male nominees. It’s time to look at Stone-Manning’s impressive professional record and long list of accomplishments. It’s time to look at the numerous letters of support that were sent to the U.S. Senate from foresters, miners, hunters, anglers, conservationists. These voices —Republicans and Democrats alike — know that she will bring more than three decades of collaborative conservation leadership and a relentless commitment to bipartisan solutions to the Bureau of Land Management. Senators should listen.

Kathy Hadley serves on the boards of the National Wildlife Federation and the Montana Wildlife Federation, working to protect public lands, fish and wildlife resources. She is also a lifelong hunter and angler.

This piece has been updated.

Tags Bureau of Land Management confirmation Deb Haaland Jim Risch John Barrasso Kathy Hadley public lands Senate
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