MISSOULA Mont. — The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted Thursday to move forward President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Tracy Stone-Manning, an ecoterrorist who once demanded a Chinese-style child policy in the name of environmental stewardship.
In 1989, Stone-Manning engaged in an episode of tree spiking near the Montana-Idaho border, wherein leftist environmentalists jammed 10-inch metal rods into trees sought for timber harvest. Meant to terrorize workers in the lumber industry, the spikes — which served as ISIS-style road bombs in Iraq — would then explode saws when processed sending deadly steel shrapnel flying upon impact.
Prevalent among radical activists in the Mountain West 30 years ago to halt development, the memory of tree spiking’s terror remains fresh in the minds of those who lived and worked that time.
Alberton, Montana is an old timber town that resides just north of Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest, where Stone-Manning’s accomplices spiked hundreds of trees with rods in 1989, many of which may still be there today.
Karen Wolhart has lived in Alberton for 45 years and runs a local bookstore in a historic building that used to serve as a Mason Hall upstairs. While she hadn’t worked in lumber, the entire town of under 1,000 people was connected to the industry in one way or another, and said she heard about the spikes all of the time 30 years ago. The form of ecoterrorism hit home when her family found a 12-inch spike in a tree being cut down on a nearby property for renovations to her bookstore.
“It’s been so long ago,” Wolhart said, but she still remembers 30 years later. “To find it in a tree and know how dangerous it was,” she told The Federalist, was disturbing.
When asked about Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management, Wolhart was unaware Stone-Manning had been nominated to the high-level role but knew exactly who Stone-Manning was. Wolhart repeated the name with such revulsion the muscles in her jaw flexed on the emphasis of “Manning.”
The bookkeeper recounted the 1996 Alberton chlorine spill which forced the evacuation of the town when a train accident two miles west released a cloud of hazardous gas headed for the community. The Montana Rail Link put the residents in Missoula hotels and fed them during the cleanup to make sure the town was safe, which was 17 days later.
“She showed up,” Wolhart said of Stone-Manning, at meetings with Alberton residents and “made a ruckus.”
“I don’t remember specifically what she said,” Wolhart added, “but there were a whole bunch of people that would show up to those meetings and say ‘shut the rails down!’ and ‘no more transporting all these hazardous chemicals’ and all this junk.”
“People from Alberton were like, ‘would you just shut up, we want to get back to our town. The railroad is making it safe for us to go back, buzz off,'” Wolhart added.
Others who were in town 30 years ago remembered tree spiking as land mines to watch out for.
In 1987, two years before Stone-Manning’s group spiked trees in northern Idaho, a 23-year-old millworker lost teeth and part of his cheek and jaw when an 11-inch spike driven into a tree shattered a large ban saw he operated.
Whether the spikes remain in place in the Clearwater National Forest today is an open question. A local bartender told The Federalist a 22,000-acre fire had been growing on the way to the Post Office Creek where the trees had been spiked. If the metal forest mines are still jammed into trees, they pose a lethal risk to firefighters who may have to fell trees in the area.
Stone-Manning took a deal for immunity in 1993 over the case in exchange for testimony against her co-conspirators, where she testified the extent of her involvement stopped at retyping a letter for a friend and former roommate. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Federalist, anonymously warned the Forest Service 500 pounds of deadly spikes were jammed into trees targeted for timber harvest.
“P.S., You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people are going to get hurt,” the letter finished.
While Democrats branded her a hero in the case for her testimony, the lead investigator sent a letter to lawmakers expanding the scope of her involvement and exposed her as an uncooperative witness who was involved in the planning process and was “extremely difficult to work with.”
“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,” wrote retired Special Agent Michael Merkley, going on to even call her the “nastiest of the suspects.”