The primary investigator in a 1989 Idaho tree spiking case sent a letter to Senate lawmakers Wednesday with new details about the nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management’s role in an episode of ecoterrorism.
Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s pick to oversee the nation’s federal lands, struck a deal for immunity with federal prosecutors in 1993 over her involvement in the incident where members of the radical environmental group Earth First! “spiked” trees in the Clearwater National Forest near the Montana-Idaho border. Tree spiking, wherein activists jam large metal rods into trees to explode in all directions upon mill processing, was a popular form of ecoterrorism aimed at workers in the lumber industry 30 years ago. The effort may also harm and even kill firefighters.
Until now, public knowledge of Stone-Manning’s involvement in the 1989 case extended to court testimony against her co-conspirators that she had re-typed a letter for her friend and former roommate, John T. Blount. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Federalist, warned that 500 pounds of 8 to 10 inch spikes were jammed into trees targeted for harvest.
“P.S., You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people are going to get hurt,” the letter ended.
On Wednesday, however, Retired Special Agent Michael Merkley detailed Stone-Manning’s role in the case far beyond that of merely retyping a letter in a four-page note sent to Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who serve as chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee respectively.
“Contrary to many stories in the news, Ms. Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim in this case. And she most certainly was not a hero,” Merkley wrote.
The retired agent went on to accuse Stone-Manning of playing an active role in the planning of the incident while wholly uncooperative with investigators. Stone-Manning, Merkley wrote, was “extremely difficult to work with,” and was even “the nastiest of the suspects.”
“She was vulgar, antagonistic and extremely anti-government,” Merkley wrote.
The note lines up with Stone-Manning’s complaints in the local press at the time, which contradict her written testimony to Senate lawmakers claiming she had not been the target of a federal investigation.
“It was degrading. It changed my awareness of the power of the government.” she told the Spokesman-Review in 1990 of the investigation into her involvement. “Yes, this is happening to me and not someone in Panama. And yes, the government does do bad things sometimes.”
One of the two men convicted in the case, Blount corroborated Merkley’s account in an interview with E&E News published Thursday, telling the outlet Stone-Manning knew of the plan “far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out.” Blount, who spearheaded the trip, was sentenced to 17 months in prison following his 1993 conviction.
Stone-Manning wasn’t “heavily involved” in the planning, and didn’t spike the trees, he said. But “she agreed to mail the letter well in advance” of the group’s operation.