The Senate voted on Thursday to confirm President Joe Biden’s controversial nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Tracy Stone-Manning, in a 50–45 vote along party lines. Stone-Manning’s affiliation with ecoterrorists and her role in a tree spiking plot from three decades ago came to light in June during her nomination process, resulting in a wave of objections to her nomination to lead the BLM, the agency overseeing vast swaths of federal land in mostly western states. In addition to zero support from congressional Republicans, several counties in the West, national and state logger organizations, the Dallas Safari Club and Houston Safari Club, a former Obama administration BLM director, and a former Trump administration acting BLM director all spoke out against Stone-Manning’s nomination as the process played out. Stone-Manning was a member of the environmental extremist group Earth First! while she was a graduate student 30 years ago at the University of Montana in Missoula, a hub for environmental activism in the ’80s and ’90s. The FBI identified the group as one of multiple radical groups that posed a domestic terrorist threat to the U.S. After his 1996 arrest, Ted Kaczynski, commonly known as the Unabomber, praised the Earth First! journal and described himself as an “Earth Firster satellite.” Kaczynski’s cabin was located in Lincoln, Montana, under two hours from Missoula, and he said he would at times venture to the University of Montana to use the library there. During her time at the University of Montana, the now-confirmed nominee became involved in a tree spiking operation. As Breitbart News reported, in 1989:
[Stone-Manning] mailed a letter to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of John P. Blount, an individual in her “circle of friends,” crudely alerting federal authorities that trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest that were scheduled to be cut down had been sabotaged with metal spikes to prevent them from being harvested. Tree spiking, as this form of sabotage is called, is both a crime and, according to the FBI’s definition, an act of ecoterrorism.
After the Forest Service received the letter, the seven individuals who were subpoenaed — including Stone-Manning — were investigated in 1989 by a grand jury and required to submit fingerprints, as well as handwriting and hair samples. However, the 1989 grand jury did not uncover enough evidence to charge Blount or anyone else with the crime. The case was not solved until Blount’s ex-wife reported Blount to authorities three years later, and in doing so, also named Stone-Manning as the person who mailed the letter for him. In exchange for immunity, Stone-Manning testified in the 1993 trial against Blount, who was convicted for the tree spiking crime and sentenced to 17 months in prison. Stone-Manning has repeatedly maintained her innocence in the ecoterrorist plot, saying she delivered the letter out of concern that someone would get hurt and that she did not actually know if trees had been spiked. Details that emerged during her nomination process, however, brought new context to the tree spiking chain of events that were damning for Stone-Manning.