The Democratic Senate majority has narrowly confirmed a once-accused eco-terrorist to head up the Bureau of Land Management.
The party-line vote on Thursday saw all 50 Democrats voting to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning after stifling GOP opposition by invoking cloture to cut off debate. Forty-eight of 50 Republicans voted against Stone-Manning’s confirmation; Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas didn’t cast a vote.
Stone-Manning’s nomination was highly contentious and controversial as she faced allegations she was involved in tree-spiking as a graduate student attending the University of Montana. The practice has often been used by eco-activists opposed to clear-cutting of trees for lumber and involves inserting a large metal spike or nail into a tree at the base so that it will be struck by a logger attempting to cut the tree down or higher up in the trunk to disrupt or destroy equipment at a sawmill.
But the practice is also extremely dangerous. A 1990 Washington Post report described an incident involving then-third-generation sawmill worker George Alexander, 23, who was critically injured when a saw he was using to split logs encountered a spike and “exploded.”
“One half of the blade stuck in the log. The other half hit Alexander in the head, tearing through his safety helmet and face shield. His face was slashed from eye to chin. His teeth were smashed and his jaw was cut in half,” the Post report noted.
“Tree spikes are among the most vicious of the strategies. While the tree is still in the forest, the spike is driven in at an angle so the head is hidden in the bark. It can shatter a chain saw on impact, sending pieces of razor-sharp steel flying,” the paper added.
In written testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ahead of her confirmation hearings, Stone-Manning claimed she “had no involvement in the spiking of trees.” Instead, she said she retyped and sent a warning to the U.S. Forest Service from another activist, John Blount, about a tree-spiking act that took place in Idaho’s Post Office Timber Sale. Later, she worked through an attorney to secure immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against Blount and other eco-terrorists.
However, Michael Merkley, a U.S. Forest Service agent that investigated the incident, disagreed with Stone-Manning’s version of events. In a letter to the committee, Merkley said that Guenevere Lilburn, who was once Blount’s girlfriend, told him Stone-Manning helped plan the tree-spiking incident and that she debated over whether to use a ceramic or a steel spike.
“Ms. Stone-Manning only came forward only after her attorney struck the immunity deal, and not before she was caught,” Merkley said in his letter.
The Forest Service agent also accused the new BLM chief of violating a number of federal laws including deemphasizing her role in the Idaho incident.
“By typing the threatening letter to the Forest Service, she was aiding and abetting those who committed an offense against the United States. When she hid her knowledge of the crime for three years and was intentionally obstructive while under investigation, she made herself an accessory after the fact,” Merkley wrote in a Fox News op-ed published Thursday.
“By not immediately reporting the crime or divulging what she knew about who was involved, she concealed a felony. When she planned to mail the threatening letter to the Forest Service she involved herself in a conspiracy against the United States. It was also a felony to send the letter through the U.S. Postal Service,” he added.
Adam Brandon, president of the right-leaning advocacy group FreedomWorks, also cast doubts on Stone-Manning’s veracity, saying it “should come as no surprise” Biden’s nominee holds the views she has “seeing as she collaborated with eco-terrorist groups with ties to Ted Kaczynski.”
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) faced a lot of pressure regarding her nomination but he eventually voted to confirm her.
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