After a heated debate in the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, the vote to nominate Tracy Stone-Manning as director of the Bureau of Land Management hit a 10-10 partisan tie Thursday.
The split vote means Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will move the vote to the Senate floor.
Republicans have accused Stone-Manning of lying about her involvement in a tree spiking case in 1989, when she was a 23-year-old graduate student. Several different versions surfaced in the past weeks, but a consistent fact is that Stone-Manning sent a letter to the National Forest Service to warn officials of several spiked trees in the Clearwater National Forest.
Tree spiking is when a metal rod is inserted at the base of a tree to prevent cutting it down or near the top to affect the sawmill processing the timber, which can damage saws or cause injury or death to the worker. It’s a federal offense and considered an act of ecoterrorism.
“Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with ecoterrorists and lied to our committee,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the top Republican on the committee. “Lying to the United States Senate has consequences. In this case, her actions and her lies should cost her this nomination.”
The conversation veered off-topic several times during the meeting, in which Democrats scolded Republicans for not holding former President Donald Trump responsible for inciting the Jan. 6 riots, and Republicans grilled Democrats for not having the same standards in preventing character assassinations when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think back home we’d call this a skunk fight,” said Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas.
Several Republican lawmakers called for the nomination to be withdrawn before the vote, including Colorado House Rep. Lauren Boebert. But Democrats have continued to support Stone-Manning, including Sen. John Hickenlooper and President Joe Biden.
Stone-Manning previously said she had a loose connection to the environmental group Earth First at the time and testified against two men who were convicted of tree spiking in 1993. She received immunity for her collaboration.
When filling out a Senate questionnaire before the initial hearing to consider her nomination for head of the BLM, Stone-Manning said she’s never been charged with a crime and had not directly or indirectly participated in the spiking of trees. She added that she had been granted immunity for her testimony.
Before the vote, Sen. Joe Manchin, chairman of the committee, attempted to appeal to the panel and noted Stone-Manning’s age when the alleged incident occurred.
“I kept thinking about my youthful sympathetic views, and they’ve changed,” Manchin said. “I’ve changed a lot, but I haven’t been held accountable. I wasn’t prevented from being a senator because of it.”
Stone-Manning is the senior adviser for conservation policy at the nonprofit conservation group National Wildlife Federation. She previously led the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and served as chief of staff to former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana.
If approved, Stone-Manning would be the first Senate-confirmed BLM director since the Obama administration. She would oversee the management of about 12% of the landmass in the United States, including 8 million acres and 27 million acres of federal mineral estate in Colorado.
Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.