Senate confirms Biden's controversial land management pick

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) despite a decades-old tree-spiking incident that led to GOP opposition to her nomination.

In a 50-45 vote, Stone-Manning was confirmed to oversee an agency that’s in charge of the nation’s public lands — including their use in energy production.

Republicans opposed Stone-Manning's confirmation because of a letter she sent in 1989 that mentioned tree-spiking, a tactic used to prevent logging that involves putting metal rods or materials into trees. It can both damage equipment and cause injuries. 

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In the letter, Stone-Manning, a 23-year-old graduate student at the time, warned that trees in a forest in Idaho had been spiked to protect them, and that people would get hurt if they tried to cut them down. 

“This letter is being sent to notify you that the Post Office Sale in Idaho has been spiked heavily. The reasoning for this action is that this piece of land is very special to the earth,” the letter said. “You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt.”

The letter did not contain Stone-Manning's name, but she acknowledged in court in 1993 that she had sent it. She did not write the letter, but retyped a message and sent the letter after an activist asked her to do so. She has said she was not involved in any tree-spiking, and that she sent the letter “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.”

Two men were ultimately convicted of spiking the Idaho trees. 

Republicans ripped Stone-Manning over the letter and argued it showed she was unfit to lead the BLM.

"Tracy Stone-Manning is a dangerous choice to be put in charge of America's public lands," Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Barrasso calls Biden's agenda 'Alice in Wonderland' logic: 'He's the Mad Hatter' MORE (R-Wyo.) said in a floor speech on Thursday. 

"At a time when America faces mounting crises, Senate Democrats, each and every one, is determined to confirm a nominee who collaborated with ecoterrorists, lied to the U.S. Senate, and continues to hold very dangerous views," Barrasso said. 

Democrats defended Stone-Manning, who previously worked as an aide to Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill  On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Senators huddle on path forward for SALT deduction in spending bill MORE (D-Mont.).

Tester on Thursday accused her critics of "character assassination." 

"The truth is Tracy Stone-Manning did nothing wrong. And in fact, the people who went to jail went to jail because of Tracy Stone-Manning. But that aside, character assassination isn't something we should put up with in this body," he said during a floor speech. 

"She's been a leader. She's somebody who knows how to bring people together. She is somebody who has utilized our public lands. She is somebody who knows how valuable these public lands are. She's somebody who will do a great job as the head of the BLM," he added. 

Republicans also accused Stone-Manning of misleading lawmakers after she told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a questionnaire she had never, to her knowledge, been the target of a law enforcement investigation. 

They released a letter in July that they said was from an investigator on the case, alleging that a grand jury sent Stone-Manning a “target letter” indicating that she was going to be indicted but that her attorney negotiated an immunity deal.  

Stone-Manning told the panel in writing that she had agreed to work with authorities and that her attorney had advised her to seek immunity. 

Stone-Manning’s supporters have emphasized her experience and leadership style. 

“As head of Montana’s environmental agency, she earned a reputation, not only as a skilled policymaker, but also as an honest broker,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBuild Back Better Is bad for the states  Dole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a floor speech Thursday.

“Some of our Republican colleagues have used her nomination to launch cheap, out of context attacks. Thankfully, no one is taking these attacks seriously. Because of her exceptional qualifications, Tracy Stone-Manning has broad support of the Democratic caucus,” he added. 

Following the vote, Stone-Manning released a statement saying she was "grateful" for the confirmation. 

“I am grateful for the Senate’s vote of confidence today and look forward to bringing decades of experience — working on the ground and across the aisle— to carry out the critical mission of the Bureau of Land Management," she said. "Our public lands are one of America’s finest ideas, and I am ready to get to work alongside a remarkable team to ensure future generations benefit from them like we have.”

Updated Oct. 1, 10:12 a.m.