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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Extremist or bridge-builder? Controversy over Biden’s choice to oversee public land.

WASHINGTON — Democrats are preparing to lead the Bureau of Land Management through the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning, despite united opposition from Republicans who labeled her an “environmental-terrorist” because of her involvement in a tree-spiking episode. is. Graduate student in the 1980s.

The vote on his nomination, due Thursday in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sets up a battle between Republicans and Democrats over an agency at the heart of climate policy.

The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the Department of the Interior that oversees grazing, logging and drilling on 245 million acres of public land and manages 700 million acres of mineral rights. It is responsible for balancing oil, gas and coal extraction with recreation and conservation of natural resources. It is also key to President Biden’s goal to phase out oil and gas drilling on federal lands – a plan that is being challenged by 15 states led by the Republican attorney general.

“Many’s concern about Stone-Manning’s nomination is that she is going to be more in favor of protecting public land for public use, and those who want more public land to be used for development.” ‘They don’t like it,’ said Mark Squalus, a professor of natural resource law at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“These other issues are being used as a way to block his confirmation,” he said. “I don’t think anyone really cares what he did 32 years ago.”

Ms. Stone-Manning, 55, has pursued a career in environmental policy, serving as an aide to Senator John Tester of Montana and former Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, both Democrats, as well as Chief of Staff of Montana. are. Environment Agency, where he gained a reputation as a bridge-builder between environmentalists, ranchers and fossil fuel interests. She is currently senior advisor on conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation, a non-profit conservation group.

But Republicans argue that his actions in 1989, and his account of that episode in the intervening years, made him ineligible for office. He wrote to President Biden asking him to withdraw his nomination and they plan to vote against him as a bloc on the committee.

Republicans also fought the likes of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, because of their opposition to expanded oil and gas drilling on public lands. While Ms Haaland reaffirmed, the process turned into a proxy battle over climate policy.

In March the Conservatives were more successful in forcing the Biden administration to withdraw its selection for deputy interior secretary, Elizabeth Klein, with senators from the coal and oil states objecting to Ms. Klein’s belief that the nation should be forced to use fossil fuels need to be curbed.

“Oil and gas, coal, those industries are shrinking or facing serious decline,” said John Leshi, an emeritus law professor at the University of California Hastings.

He blamed market forces more than government policies for this, but said the Interior Department has become the place where the fierce battle is raging over the future of those industries.

“There’s a lot of despair attached to that,” said Mr. Leshi. “And we are at a time when those disappointments have come to the fore.”

Ms Stone-Manning has never been charged with a crime and did not participate in an attempt to drive 500 pounds of metal spikes into trees in Clearwater National Forest in Idaho three decades ago, a federal crime for which the two men were later convicted. was ordained.

Tree spiking is a tactic to try to prevent logging by inserting metal rods into trees that can damage the saw blade. It was used in the 1980s by activists who hoped to make it uneconomical to cut down trees, but the practice was dangerous; The spikes can injure or kill the woodcutter.

Ms. Manning, then a 23-year-old graduate student, sent and mailed an abusive letter to the United States Forest Service on behalf of one of the tree-cutting activists. Ms Stone-Manning described her act as an attempt to warn officials and protect people from harm.

Republicans have accused Stone-Manning of lying to lawmakers about whether she has ever been the target of an investigation, a charge the administration has denied.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee is expected to be split evenly along the 10 Republican and 10 Democrat party lines. That would force Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, to discharge the nomination, a rare move that would bring it before the full Senate for a vote. If the Senate also splits along party lines, Democrats would need Vice President Harris to break the tie.

The White House this week issued a statement in support of Ms Stone-Manning.

White House spokesman Vedanta Patel said, “Tracey Stone-Manning is a dedicated public servant with years of experience and a proven track record of finding solutions and common ground when it comes to our public lands and waters.” ” “He is exceptionally qualified to be the next director of the Bureau of Land Management.”

Republicans say the new statements from the figures involved in the spiking episode indicate that Ms. Stone-Manning was more involved than she claimed.

“We now know that President Biden’s candidate to run the Bureau of Land Management lied to the Senate about his alleged involvement,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a Republican leader, said in a statement. “The White House must withdraw its nomination immediately.”

Mr Tester said the allegations against Ms Stone-Manning “smells of political stigma.”

“I know that Tracy Stone-Manning is someone who has spent the last 20 years bringing together people on 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 an environmental studies graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula, Earth First! including John Blount and Jeffrey Fairchild! The workers drove the car. Nails in old-fashioned trees in the Idaho woods in an attempt to stop the sale of lumber.

Later, Ms. Stone-Manning testified, Mr. Blount told her send letter He alerted her to the Forest Service, which she did after typing it again. He later told prosecutors that he had learned about the tree cutting for the first time and It “shocked”.

In 1993, Ms Stone-Manning testified against Mr Fairchild and Mr Blount in exchange for immunity.

Last week, Michael W. Merkle, a retired US Forest Service investigator who was the special agent in charge of the case, wrote to Senate MPs And said Ms. Stone-Manning was unhelpful and belligerent when the government initially investigated the tree-spiking crime. He also said he had received a “target letter” indicating that he would be charged with regard to his involvement.

“MS. Stone-Manning came forward only after her lawyer signed the immunity deal, not before she was caught,” Mr. Merkle said.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, cited this and a 1990 interview given by Ms. Stone-Manning. As evidence that she lied in response to written questions from the committee as to whether she had ever been the target of a criminal investigation.

“He is an eco-terrorist,” Mr Barrasso said in an interview, “he has lied to the committee, misled the committee about his past behavior and investigation.”

Kathleen Sagama, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies, said Ms Stone-Manning’s protests are based on her behavior in 1989, not 1989. His opposition to expanding fossil fuel drilling on public lands. “It’s not like we’re going to get anyone from the industry if we get rid of Tracy Stone-Manning,” said Ms. Sagama. “It’s about her decision.”

Mr Fairchild, who served time in prison for his role in the tree-spiking incident, defended Stone-Manning when reached by telephone.

“Being one of the main participants in that event and one of the main planners, to the best of my memory she knew nothing about it in advance,” Mr Fairchild said, adding that Ms Manning was opposed to the violence. was known to do.

“Tracy was always a baritone,” he said. “We were talking about ending old-growth deforestation, and she was the first to say ‘Yeah, but loggers have families too.'”

Mr Examiner said he too was not concerned about the allegations. “We have votes to confirm that,” he said.

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