By: Kimberley A. Strassel
July 8, 2021
“P.S. You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt.”
Thus reads a note sent in 1989 to the U.S. Forest Service by Tracy Stone-Manning, now President Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Land Management.
Presidents are generally entitled to personnel picks. An exception might be a nominee who ran with eco-terrorists—who collaborated with Earth First! saboteurs, known for spiking trees to halt timber sales, and who misled senators about the nature of her involvement.
Mr. Biden put Ms. Stone-Manning forward in April, and she isn’t new to politics. The environmental radical has worked for Sen. Jon Tester and former Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, and more recently at the National Wildlife Federation. She’s spent a lifetime protesting fossil-fuel production, logging, mining and public access to federal land.
The Earth First! story also isn’t new, though over the years Ms. Stone-Manning crafted a heroic version. In that tale, told in various forums over the years, she was an innocent graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula. In 1989, a “frankly, frightening” and “disturbed person” from Earth First! asked her to mail a warning letter about tree spiking, which is designed to kill or maim loggers and mill workers. She agreed, because “she didn’t want anybody getting hurt.” In 1993 she nobly testified against the spikers, helping send two to prison. A Biden official said that Ms. Stone-Manning has always been “honest and transparent” about her history.
Hardly. Public documents obtained by the Journal tell the real story. According to that 1993 court transcript, Ms. Stone-Manning arrived in Missoula in 1988 and immediately moved into a house occupied by Earth First! members. This was the height of the wilderness wars, and Earth First! had by the mid-1980s defined itself as the tip of the fanatical spear. Its modus operandi was violence and terror, or what it called “monkeywrenching”—spectacular arsons, equipment destruction, and most notably the deadly practice of tree spiking.
She acknowledged in testimony that she helped edit an Earth First! newsletter. One 1989 edition highlighted an article entitled “Who Are the Real Terrorists?” It praises “the fine art of tree spiking.” In testimony, Ms. Stone-Manning described the men who were ultimately convicted of spiking as co-inhabitants of her house as well as “friends.”
One, John Blount (later convicted), in the spring of 1989 asked her to send a letter to the Forest Service. The letter explained that “five hundred pounds of spikes measuring 8 to 10 inches” had been laced through Idaho trees, and warned that anyone seeking to fell them would get “hurt.” Rather than alert authorities, Ms. Stone-Manning rented a typewriter and retyped it, explaining in a later interview that she worried her “fingerprints were all over the original.” She mailed it.
The Missoulian reported that in fall 1989 “prosecutors subpoenaed seven Missoula residents, including Stone-Manning, to appear before a grand jury to provide physical evidence, including handwriting and hair samples.” Yet a former federal law-enforcement agent who investigated the 1989 spiking recently told E&E news she stonewalled the investigation, setting it back years. According to the article, only after Mr. Blount’s common-law wife ratted him out was Ms. Stone-Manning’s role exposed, and then she traded testimony for immunity. “The only reasons that Tracy Stone-Manning became a cooperator, if you want to call it that, is because she was caught,” the former agent told E&E.
So here’s the real story: The Biden nominee, as an adult, joined an organization that openly perpetrated violence—tactics that led to real harm, as with a California sawmill worker whose face was ravaged in 1987 when a blade shattered on a spike. Ms. Stone-Manning was made aware of an act of eco-terrorism, aided the perpetrators, and hid the crime. Why would Mr. Biden reward this behavior by putting her in charge of 247 million acres of public land?
The “honest and transparent” Ms. Stone-Manning also wasn’t straight in her Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee questionnaire. She at one point declared that she had “never been the target of [a federal] investigation.” This despite complaining in a 1990 Spokesman-Review article about being targeted in the FBI probe, as well as giving a 1993 interview to the Missoulian, which reported: “Stone-Manning said she could have been charged with conspiracy” if not for her immunity deal. (The BLM didn’t respond to a request for comment from Ms. Stone-Manning.)
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, ranking member of the Energy Committee, is leading Republicans in demanding the withdrawal of her nomination, stating that she was “intentionally trying to deceive” the committee. The nominee has proved too much even for Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski. And Barack Obama’s first BLM director, Bob Abbey, last month said her history “should disqualify her” from the job.
The Biden team is so far sticking by its monkeywrencher, so the question will be decided by Senate Democrats, including Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin. It’s bad enough to rubber-stamp radicals. There should be no room in the federal government for those who dabbled with terrorists.