From early on, the Biden administration has urged the need to combat “domestic terrorism” and touted a high standard of “ethics.” Joe Biden shot gaping holes in the sincerity and credibility of both goals when he nominated an ethically compromised eco-terrorist, Tracy Stone-Manning, to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which controls nearly 250 million acres of resource-rich federal lands.
The confirmation process has brought to light Stone-Manning’s domestic terrorist past. Some argue it makes her unfit to command the approximately 12 percent of the American landmass BLM controls, access to which is key to countless Western jobs and the region’s economic and cultural vitality.
A History of Domestic Terrorist Exploits
During her years as a graduate student at the University of Montana, Stone-Manning was involved with the eco-terrorist group “Earth First!,” which in 2002 was labeled a “radical group” by the FBI. The group gave rise to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an organization the FBI described as a “serious terrorist threat” in the early 2000s.
Earth First! has extensive connections to ecological terrorist movements across the globe. It recently endorsed an attack on logging equipment in Chile, labeling the destruction of “no less than 26 machines” as a “beautiful coordinated attack,” according to the Earth First! Journal. The group also expressed unqualified support for terrorists — dismissed by some in the media as “vandals” — who recently set fire to part of a Tesla factory in Germany.
Closer to home, ELF was responsible for the 1998 arson attacks on ski buildings and equipment in Vail, Colorado. In May 2001, ELF firebombed the office of Toby Bradshaw, a biologist at the University of Washington, to protest his work genetically modifying trees.
More recently, in December 2020, “Earth First!” was scrawled across a natural gas pipeline in Aspen, Colorado, where an “intentional disruption” of gas service left hundreds of households without heat or hot water in the midst of a brutal winter cold snap. That crime remains unsolved, despite the Biden administration’s selective campaign to hunt down and prosecute domestic extremists.
Back in 1989, Stone-Manning directly supported the terrorist group’s tree-spiking activities. Tree spiking involves driving spikes or nails into the trunks of trees before they are cut down. The spikes can splinter upon impact with a logger’s chainsaw or a sawmill blade, sending out shards of flying metal. The aim is to maim or kill lumber industry workers, or damage equipment.
Tree-spiking is a felony in many states across the country, including Oregon, Washington, Indiana, and Maine. Stone-Manning partook in one of these sabotages in 1989 by helping send an anonymous letter to the U.S. Forest Service, threatening “a total of five hundred pounds of spikes measuring 8 to 10 inches” awaited loggers in an Idaho forest where a cutting project was to take place.
Stone-Manning’s apologists may portray the “warning letter” as an act of heroism, suggesting she opposed the action. But the letter in fact was part of the plan, according to her own admission.
The letter wasn’t meant to help forest officials identify spiked trees. Its purpose was to dissuade them from cutting any trees, fearing some were booby-trapped. The letter warned “a lot of people could get hurt” if “you bastards” go ahead with the logging project — obviously a threat, not a helpful heads-up. Stone-Manning wasn’t a whistleblower but a plot participant, who only escaped prosecution by rolling over on her former friend.
Ethics Concerns Plus Lying to Congress
Stone-Manning’s troubled past doesn’t stop at supporting domestic terrorism. In her graduate school thesis, she referred to a human child as an “environmental hazard” and portrayed parents who have more than two kids as environmentally irresponsible. She also argued that livestock grazing on public lands is “destroying the West,” which can’t be welcome news to the many Western ranchers who hold grazing rights on BLM land.
Stone-Manning has been a senior adviser at the National Wildlife Federation, a group with a long history of opposition to critical pieces of energy infrastructure, including pipelines. Putting an anti-drilling zealot in charge of managing the nation’s most energy-rich lands is like hiring a vegan to manage a meat market.
In the ethical concerns department, Stone-Manning received a personal loan from a Montana developer and Democrat party donor while on the payroll of Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. Financial disclosure filings put the value of the loan at between $50,000 and $100,000, on which she paid a below-market interest rate of 6 percent.
The American Accountability Foundation, a watchdog group, says the loan may have qualified as an “impermissible gift” under Senate ethics rules, which note “gifts,” including loans, are unacceptable if “there is reason to believe that the gift was provided because of the individual’s [recipient’s] official position.”
Stone-Manning also denied ever having been the target of a federal investigation on a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. But the FBI and the Forest Service, two agencies with federal law enforcement responsibilities, did investigate her (along with several others) in the tree-spiking case.
“It’s clear that Ms. Stone-Manning was intentionally trying to deceive the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming. “She told the committee she had never been the subject of an investigation and yet complained about being investigated in the press. President Biden should withdraw her nomination.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Barrasso published additional questions pressing the nominee for answers on her radical past, the sweetheart loan, and her editing work on an Earth First! newsletter.
Stone-Manning Pick Shows How Radical Biden Is
Although the Biden White House so far is sticking by the nominee, at least publicly, the tide seems to be turning against her.
“No matter how young, no matter how naive, the director of the Bureau of Land Management for the United States of America should not — and I repeat, should not — have ever been involved in eco-terrorism,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, in a floor speech calling on Biden to rethink the appointment.
Barack Obama’s BLM director, Bob Abbey, retracted his endorsement of Stone-Manning’s nomination after the revelations came to light. “The fact that she stood by and allowed this criminal action to take place could have resulted in critical injuries or worse to career public servants who were just performing their duties,” said Abbey.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell formally announced his opposition to Stone-Manning in a strongly worded condemnation on Tuesday, which may be a sign the matter will soon come to a full Senate vote.
Many nominees come with baggage that can slow or stall the process. But Stone-Manning is so far over the weight limit for personal and ideological baggage that this almost has to be a test to see how unqualified a nominee can be and still win Senate approval.
Eco-leftists of Stone-Manning’s ilk would desperately like to portray their fringe ideology as mainstream and respectable. Having one of their own embedded this high up in the federal government would be a good way to do that. That might help explain why the White House is stubbornly sticking with this nominee despite negatives that would sink anyone else.
It’s also possible Stone-Manning’s past was known by White House insiders but not considered damning or troubling enough to disqualify her – showing just how radical Team Biden is.
The president is hypocritically lambasting violent extremism and domestic terror on one hand, while rewarding it on the other by placing a practitioner of both in a position of power and prestige. That sends Americans the message that left-wing extremism and political violence won’t just be tolerated, it will be rewarded, and with a plumb federal appointment. The implications of that reach far beyond the approval or disapproval of this nominee.