Top GOP senator calls on Biden to withdraw BLM nominee following report she did not cooperate with authorities
Andrew Kerr, DCNF
- Republican Sen. John Barrasso again called on President Joe Biden to revoke his nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management on Friday over her involvement in a 1989 tree-spiking incident.
- E&E News reported Friday that the nominee, Tracy Stone-Manning, was an early target in the case and that she didn’t initially cooperate with federal law enforcement officials investigating the incident, according to an unidentified former official involved in the investigation.
- “The only reasons that Tracy Stone-Manning became a cooperator, if you want to call it that, is because she was caught,” the former law enforcement official told E&E News.
- Barrasso told the DCNF that E&E News’ report proves that Stone-Manning lied to his committee about her involvement in the incident.
A top-ranking Senate Republican renewed his call for President Joe Biden to revoke his nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management following a report Friday that the nominee did not initially cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating a 1989 tree spiking incident she was involved in.
The nominee, Tracy Stone-Manning, received legal immunity to testify in a 1993 criminal trial that she sent an anonymous and threatening letter to the Forest Service on behalf of her former roommate and friend four years prior warning that a local forest had been sabotaged with tree spikes, a known eco-terrorism tactic. Stone-Manning told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in writing she has never been the target of a federal criminal investigation, and that her testimony in the case helped land the “responsible individual” behind bars.
But E&E News reported Friday that an unidentified retired federal law enforcement official who investigated the tree-spiking incident said Stone-Manning was considered a target of the investigation during its early stages and that her initial refusal to cooperate with law enforcement officials set the investigation back by many years.
“This investigator has confirmed what I have been saying. Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with eco-terrorists who had booby trapped trees with metal spikes. She mailed the threatening letter for them and she was part of the cover up. She did not cooperate with investigators until she was caught,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Tracy Stone-Manning lied to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by claiming the tree spiking was ‘alleged’ and that she was never investigated. Now, we have confirmation that neither of those things are true,” Barrasso, the ranking member of the committee, added. “President Biden must withdraw her nomination.”
Barrasso first called for Stone-Manning’s nomination to be withdrawn on June 17 for intentionally deceiving his committee about her involvement in the case.
The unidentified former law enforcement official who spoke with E&E News told the outlet that Stone-Manning “absolutely refused to do anything” to advance the investigation during its early stages in 1989.
The former federal investigator told the outlet that Stone-Manning only cooperated with authorities years later after they learned from the ex-girlfriend of one of the people responsible for spiking the trees that Stone-Manning had sent the threatening letter to the Forest Service.
“The only reasons that Tracy Stone-Manning became a cooperator, if you want to call it that, is because she was caught,” the former law enforcement official told E&E News.
The DCNF has not independently confirmed E&E News’ reporting. A former federal law enforcement official who was involved in the tree spiking investigation declined to comment when reached by phone Friday afternoon.
Tree spiking, which The Washington Post and other news outlets have described as an “eco-terrorism” tactic, is a form of sabotage in which metal spikes are nailed into trees to make them unsafe to log. If gone unnoticed, tree spikes can cause serious injuries for workers, such as when a 23-year-old mill worker in California had his jaw cut in half in 1987 when his saw exploded upon striking an unnoticed tree spike.
The DCNF previously reported that numerous news reports, accounts of federal law enforcement officials and statements from Stone-Manning herself at the time of the incident and subsequent criminal trial strongly suggest that she was a target of the federal government’s investigation into the matter.
The Montana Kaimin reported in October 1989 that Stone-Manning was among the seven individuals who were served with subpoenas and forced to provide fingerprints, palm prints, handwriting samples and hair samples to a federal grand jury investigating the matter.
A Forest Service law enforcement official confirmed to the Kaimin at the time that the subpoenas were issued as a result of an investigation into the tree spiking incident.
Stone-Manning herself was quoted in a 1990 news article expressing her anger at the “degrading” experience the FBI subjected her to during their investigation.
“It was degrading. It changed my awareness of the power of the government,” Stone-Manning said. “Yes, this was happening to me and not someone in Panama. And, yes, the government does do bad things sometimes.”
Stone-Manning also told a local news outlet in 1993 that she could have been charged with conspiracy in the matter had she not cooperated with federal prosecutors.
Stone-Manning has provided differing accounts of her involvement in the matter.
She told the Missoulian in May 1993 she felt safe enough to inform federal authorities that she mailed the threatening letter to the Forest Service on behalf of John Blount, one of the individuals responsible for spiking the trees, after reading a newspaper account of his arrest in February that year.
Stone-Manning told the outlet she retyped the letter because my fingerprints were all over the original and I was scared.”
“What I really feel, though, is that I reported a crime, although anonymously,” she said.
But in 2013 Stone-Manning said she was unsolicitedly contacted by Blount’s ex-girlfriend in 1993, who told her Blount was soon to be released from jail due to an unrelated domestic abuse matter. Stone-Manning said the ex-girlfriend told her that Blount would remain imprisoned if Stone-Manning testified about his involvement in the tree spiking incident.
“She knew everything about the tree-spiking story and she knew if she told everything that could keep him in jail,” Stone-Manning said in 2013, according to the Missoulian. “She asked if I would testify, and I said yes, and he went to jail.”
Neither version of events Stone-Manning presented to the media align completely with the timeline presented in a federal prosecutor’s pre-trial memo in 1993.
The prosecutor wrote in the memo that federal authorities were first informed that Stone-Manning sent the threatening letter after being contacted by Blount’s ex-girlfriend in December 1992.
Multiple Republican senators have accused Stone-Manning of providing false answers to the committee in regards to her involvement in the tree spiking incident and called for her nomination to serve as the director of the Bureau of Land Management to be revoked.
However, the White House has remained supportive of her nomination amid the blowback.
“Tracy Stone-Manning is a dedicated public servant who has years of experience and a proven track record of finding solutions and common ground when it comes to our public lands and waters,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday, according to Fox News. “She is exceptionally qualified to be the next Director of the Bureau of Land Management.”
A vote for Stone-Manning’s nomination has not yet been scheduled.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.