Biden land management pick faces GOP scrutiny over decades-old tree spiking case
President Biden’s pick to lead the country’s public lands agency is coming under Republican criticism over her involvement in a logging sabotage case decades ago.
The criticism is over Bureau of Land Management nominee Tracy Stone-Manning’s prior admission to sending a letter to the Forest Service detailing activist tree-spiking, in which spikes are driven into trees to create potential damage to logging equipment.
The 1989 letter in question, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, says that trees were spiked to protect the environment and warned that people could get hurt if activity at a national forest in Idaho proceeded.
Stone-Manning testified in 1993 that she retyped and sent the letter, which activist John Blount told her to send, for safety reasons.
“Mr. Blount … handed me a letter, and asked me to read it, which I did; and then asked me if I would mail it to the Forest Service,” she said in court.
“I took the letter and I thought about it overnight, and then I decided to mail it, but I decided to retype it first,” Stone-Manning added.
She also said that she made that decision “because I wanted people to know that those trees were spiked. I didn’t want anybody getting hurt as a result of trees being spiked.”
The court records don’t suggest that Stone-Manning was involved in the spiking activities.
Nevertheless, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) argued that the matter “disqualifies” her from leading the country’s public lands agency as the Senate weighs whether to confirm her.
“She worked with extreme environmental activists who spiked trees, threatening the lives and livelihoods of loggers,” the senator said in a statement.
“While she was given immunity from prosecution to testify against her companions in court, her actions were disgraceful. This clearly disqualifies her from serving as the next director of the Bureau of Land Management,” he added.
The letter in question said that activists put the spikes in trees for environmental reasons.
“This letter is being sent to notify you that the Post Office Sale has been spiked heavily. The reasoning for this action is that this piece of land is very special to the earth,” said the letter.
“The sales were marked so that no workers would be injured and so that you assholes know they are spiked,” it added. “You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt. ”
A source briefed on the matter told The Hill that Stone-Manning has been transparent about the issue, and has never condoned any action that could lead to injury.
In a follow-up statement, a spokesperson for Barrasso criticized how Stone-Manning characterized the incident in questions submitted to Congress, particularly that she didn’t say she received immunity for her testimony.
“Ms. Stone-Manning informed the committee that she had testified as part of an ‘alleged’ tree spiking case in her committee questionnaire. She also said she was not the subject of any investigation. The trees were in fact spiked (parties were found guilty) and she did not disclose that she had received immunity in order to testify,” the spokesperson said.
Mike Saccone, a spokesperson for Stone-Manning’s employer, the National Wildlife Federation, stressed that she has the qualifications and temperament to lead the Bureau of Land Management in an email to The Hill.
“Senator Barrasso is free to make whatever decision he deems fit regarding Tracy’s nomination, but if he’s weighing her qualifications, her commitment to work across the aisle, and her dedication to prudently managing our public lands, supporting her nomination should be an easy decision,” Saccone said.
Meanwhile, some of Stone-Manning’s supporters framed the matter as a “bad-faith” attack and pointed out that Stone-Manning did the “right thing” by testifying against Blount.
“She testified in court against the folks who did the spiking and ended up sending people to prison because of her testimony,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director at the Center for Western Priorities.
“I would be very curious to hear why … Senator Barrasso is so concerned about an incident from 30 years ago when he won’t support a bipartisan investigation into what happened this year under his nose at the U.S. Capitol,” Weiss said, referring to the Jan. 6 attack.