OPINION

Senatorial Update with Deb Fischer

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

The Troubling Tale of Tracy Stone-Manning

By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

**Click here to download audio of this week’s column**

After a new president takes office, they have hundreds of jobs to fill. As a general rule, presidents can hire whomever they choose. But when it comes to the highest-level positions, the Constitution gives the U.S. Senate the opportunity to offer “advice and consent” on a president’s nominees.

The Founding Fathers were wise to give the Senate this authority. Every now and then, presidents nominate people with views outside the mainstream. When this happens, it is up to each senator to decide whether those views would prevent them from carrying out their duties.

In April, President Biden nominated Tracy Stone-Manning to serve as the next Director of the Bureau of Land Management. If she is confirmed, she would run a powerful agency that oversees more than 10 percent of all land in the United States. But Ms. Stone-Manning has a checkered past. In the 1980s, she was involved with a radical environmental group called Earth First!, which engages in acts of eco-terrorism ranging from arson to tree spiking.

Tree spiking, where activists hammer spikes into trees to prevent logging and which has even injured or killed workers, is especially dangerous, and several members of Earth First! have gone to prison for it. Ms. Stone-Manning could have, too: In 1989, an Earth First! member asked her to send a letter to the U.S. Forest Service that said the group had planted hundreds of pounds of these deadly spikes in an Idaho forest. This same member later said that Stone-Manning knew about the tree spiking months in advance.

Rather than turn in those responsible, Ms. Stone Manning retyped the letter – she said her “fingerprints were all over the original” – and mailed it to the Forest Service. When prosecutors came looking for the culprits, they subpoenaed seven people, including Stone-Manning.

She went out of her way to delay the investigation and shield members of Earth First! from justice for years. Only after a convicted group member’s wife revealed the extent of Stone-Manning’s involvement did she begin to cooperate with the investigation. Even then, she didn’t testify until she was granted immunity from prosecution.

Ms. Stone-Manning’s defenders have argued that these were simply youthful mistakes – but at the time, she was a 24-year-old graduate student at the University of Montana. She was more than old enough to understand the consequences of her actions.

She later worked as a senior advisor to a Democrat U.S. senator. While serving in this position, she accepted a $100,000 business loan at half the going interest rate from a wealthy friend and Democratic Party donor. Despite Senate ethics rules and relevant federal law, she chose not to disclose it.

And earlier this year, she appeared to lie to Congress. In response to questions from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about her nomination, she claimed that she has never been the subject of a federal investigation. That is simply false. According to a Montana newspaper, Stone-Manning “could have been charged with conspiracy” if she hadn’t accepted her plea deal.

I cannot support Ms. Stone-Manning’s confirmation. If I did, I would be putting my stamp of approval on not only her involvement with environmental extremists, but also her later dishonesty. And this isn’t just any job. If she is confirmed, she would be in charge of nearly 250 million acres of public land.

It is one thing to be passionate about conservation. Covering for eco-terrorists and showing a lifelong pattern of dishonesty is another thing entirely. I cannot vote to confirm Ms. Stone-Manning and urge the president to nominate someone with a less troubled past to serve in this important role.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

United States Senator Deb Fischer