A government watchdog group filed a complaint with the inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday arguing that newly confirmed Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning violated the False Statements Act.
The transparency nonprofit Protect the Public’s Trust took issue with Stone-Manning’s seemingly deliberate misrepresentation of her role in a 1989 tree spiking case, a form of ecoterrorism wherein far-left environmental activists jammed metal rods into trees targeted for harvest. Once processed for logging, the rods shred the saws and explode into deadly projectiles meant to instill fear among those in the timber industry. In 1987, 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 bandsaw he operated.
When asked on a standard questionnaire by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources whether she had “ever been investigated, arrested, or charged” in any law violation “other than a minor traffic offense,” Stone-Manning wrote no.
“I have never been arrested or charged and to my knowledge I have never been the target of such an investigation,” Stone-Manning said in written testimony.
Prior interviews given to local press over her involvement with a case of spiked trees in northern Idaho, however, say otherwise.
In 1993, Stone-Manning accepted legal immunity from federal prosecutors in exchange for court testimony against her co-conspirators. Stone-Manning said her involvement extended to merely retyping a letter to the Forest Service warning that 500 pounds of 8 to 10-inch spikes were jammed into trees at the Clearwater National Forest.
“P.S., You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people are going to get hurt,” the letter finished on behalf of her friend and former roommate, John T. Blount.
Throughout Stone-Manning’s confirmation process, retired special agent Michael Merkley, who was the lead prosecutor in the case, made clear that the nominee to now oversee 245 million acres of federal land was absolutely a target in the case. In fact, she was “the nastiest of the suspects,” Merkley wrote to Senate lawmakers, who was “vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government.”
“Contrary to many stories in the news, Ms. Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim in this case,” Merkley added, pushing back against the Democrats’ narrative that Stone-Manning was a saint who helped secure the conviction of her friends. “She most certainly was not a hero.”
Contrary to her written claims, Stone-Manning even complained about being the target of a federal investigation.
“It was degrading. It changed my awareness of the power of the government,” she told a Spokane newspaper in 1990. “Yes, this is happening to me and not someone in Panama. And yes, the government does do bad things sometimes.”
Blount, who was ultimately sentenced to 17 months in prison, corroborated Merkley’s account of Stone-Manning’s knowledge of the case.
“She knew about it far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out,” Blount told Politico’s E&E News.
While it’s unclear whether the spikes remain in the trees today, their existence could still present a risk to firefighters in the area.
“The American public expects that high-ranking public servants will act with the highest levels of honesty and integrity,” said Michael Chamberlain, the director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “Certainly, someone in the position to lead an agency with 10,000 employees and a portfolio including a large portion of U.S. land, should exemplify these traits.”
Stone-Manning’s apparent false statements became a primary point of opposition from Republican senators who fought to reject her confirmation. In July, Senate Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to President Joe Biden to rescind the nomination.
“We believe that Ms. Stone-Manning’s false and misleading statements, as well as her extremist activities, disqualify her from serving as Director of this important agency,” the letter read. “Any individual who leads this important agency must have the faith and trust of the American people. Ms. Stone-Manning has violated that trust.”
Stone-Manning, however, was ultimately confirmed 50-45 along party lines last week.
Protect the Public’s Trust requested that the Interior Department inspector general investigate whether employees within the agency assisted Stone-Manning in her written testimony to the Senate.