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Josh Hawley Confronts Public Lands Chief For Lying About Involvement In Ecoterrorism

Hawley accused BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning of lying to Congress about her role with an ecoterrorist group that “spiked” trees in 1989.


President Joe Biden’s director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was forced to answer questions about her role in a 1989 tree-spiking case this week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

On Thursday, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., accused BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning of lying to Congress about her role with a radical environmental group that “spiked” trees in the Clearwater National Forest near the Montana-Idaho border. Tree spiking consists of inserting metal rods into trees and is a form of ecoterrorism used by far-left activists in the 1980s and 1990s. The rods then become deadly projectiles when the trees are processed for logging. While they are intended to intimidate workers in the timber industry, metal mines planted in trees have also injured firefighters hastily working to extinguish massive blazes.

In her written testimony, submitted to the committee as part of her confirmation proceedings three years ago, Stone-Manning said she had “never been arrested or charged and to my knowledge I have never been the target of such an investigation.” In 1989, however, Stone-Manning was the subject of an investigation into an Idaho tree-spiking ring that ultimately culminated in Stone-Manning receiving an immunity deal with prosecutors in 1993. Hawley asked the BLM director whether she stood by her written statement given her prior experience being investigated as an ecoterrorist.

“I do stand by that testimony,” she said, “and was proud to be confirmed to do this job.” The BLM chief went on to frame herself as the hero in the 1989 tree spiking drama in which activists planted 500 pounds of 8-to-10-inch spikes in the Clearwater National Forest to protest a timber sale. After Hawley outlined the hazards presented by spiked trees to blue-collar lumberjacks, Stone-Manning said the risks were “why I notified the federal authorities” of the trees targeted. Hawley responded by reading from a letter she had sent to the U.S. Forest Service. Stone-Manning had previously testified as part of her immunity deal in the 1990s that the letter was typed and sent on behalf of her former friend and roommate, John T. Blount.

“‘I would be more than willing to pay you a dollar for the sale but you’d have to find me first and that could be your worst nightmare,’” Hawley read. “‘P.S. You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt.’ Why did you send this?”

“I understood that people could get hurt,” she said, adding she was intimidated by those for whom she sent the letter. Hawley, however, went on to reference testimony from a lead investigator on the case who delivered a letter to the Senate committee three years ago contradicting Stone-Manning’s claims of heroism.

Retired Special Agent Michael Merkley told lawmakers that “Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim in this case. And she most certainly was not a hero.” Merkley added she was “extremely difficult to work with” and was even “the nastiest of the suspects.” “She was vulgar, antagonistic and extremely anti-government,” Merkley wrote.

Stone-Manning, however, remained dismissive of Hawley’s inquiries, asserting they were a distraction from her administrative tenure and were meant to focus attention on “a salacious moment from graduate school where I tried to protect people.”

“What I don’t understand is why we’re not looking at the last three and a half years now,” she said.

“Here’s why,” Hawley said, “it’s because people are killed in these kinds of incidents. It is an act of terrorism. A special agent in charge found that you were involved. You lied to this committee.”

What Hawley failed to mention, however, is that many of the trees in the Clearwater National Forest still have spikes in them, some of which remain 150 feet above ground and have likely now rusted, making the rods more difficult to find. In 2021, Sen. James Risch asked then-Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen whether the agency had a program to root out spikes planted by environmental terrorists.

“The Post Office Sale,” Risch explained, in reference to the timber sale hampered by Stone-Manning’s team of activists, “has trees still standing that have tree spikes in them.”

Christiansen was unsure if a public service to remove the metal rods exists.

[RELATED: Memories Of Tree Spiking Are Fresh Where Tracy Stone-Manning Engaged In Ecoterrorism]

Stone-Manning’s contradictory testimony, delivered amid her turbulent confirmation process, became the subject of a complaint by a nonpartisan government watchdog group. Two weeks after Stone-Manning secured a party-line Senate approval, the transparency nonprofit Protect the Public’s Trust submitted a request that the Department of the Interior’s inspector general investigate the debacle, including whether agency employees assisted Stone-Manning in preparing her written testimony.

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