HELENA — Montanan Tracy Stone-Manning’s nomination to head the U.S. Bureau of Land Management advanced to the Senate floor Tuesday on a partisan 50-49 vote, setting up a final vote on her confirmation later this week.
All 48 Senate Democrats and two Independents voted to “discharge” her nomination from the deadlocked Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and send it to the Senate floor for further action; 49 Republicans voted against her.
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota did not vote. Vice President Kamala Harris had been ready to break a 50-50 tie in Stone-Manning’s favor, had it occurred.
Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines, who’s led the attempt to kill Stone-Manning’s nomination, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to oppose her – repeating claims he’s made for weeks, about her involvement in a 1989 tree-spiking incident in Idaho.
“For four years, she refused to tell federal investigators who the perpetrators were,” he said. “She’s never apologized for this crime, for covering it up. I think the cover-up is as serious in many ways as anything else. And for this reason, and some others, I oppose her nomination and believe that Montana and our nation do deserve better.”
Stone-Manning, a longtime conservationist and former head of the state Department of Environmental Quality, was a student at the University of Montana in 1989 when she typed and mailed a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, warning it of metal spikes that had been driven into trees in a national forest timber sale.
She said she had nothing to do with the tree-spiking and mailed the letter only at the request of those who did, to warn timber officials about the spikes.
Daines maintained she was part of the plan to spike the trees and didn’t cooperate with federal investigations into the incident until years later.
Stone-Manning testified against the tree-spikers at a 1993 trial in federal court; two of them were convicted. She arranged limited immunity from prosecution for herself, before testifying.
Stone-Manning also was a top staffer for Montana’s Democratic senator, Jon Tester, who spoke Tuesday on the Senate floor in her favor – and blasted those who tried to torpedo her nomination.
“She is a collaborative, responsible leader, and at the BLM she will bring nonpartisan stewardship to our nation’s greatest treasures,” she said. “But unfortunately, members of this body have played politics with her nomination.
“They have dragged a good person’s name through the muck, in a cynical smear campaign, ginned up by folks who would rather play politics than see a qualified, competent woman running the Bureau of Land Management.”
The BLM manages millions of acres of federal land and mineral rights, mostly in the West. It’s expected to play a key role in the Biden administration’s plans to shift public-land and energy policy.
Last Thursday, the Senate Energy Committee deadlocked 10-10, along party lines, on her confirmation. Under Senate rules in the tied body, a majority of the full Senate can bring her confirmation to the floor – which it did Tuesday.
The full Senate now must vote on Stone-Manning’s confirmation.
Stone-Manning most recently has worked for the National Wildlife Federation and earlier worked as state director for Tester and state DEQ director under former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.