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Former Obama official calls on Biden nominee to pull out over tree-spiking case

A former head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under Barack Obama called on President Biden’s pick for the same post to withdraw her nomination Monday over her ties to a “tree-spiking” operation meant to sabotage logging efforts in the 1980s.

Robert Abbey, who headed BLM between 2009 and 2012, told E&E News that he had initially supported Tracy Stone-Manning’s nomination, but now believed that “that she should withdraw her name from further consideration for the BLM director position.”

Stone-Manning has admitted that she sent a letter to the US Forest Service on behalf of her friend and former roommate John Blount in 1989, when she was a graduate student at the University of Montana. The letter revealed that 500 pounds of “spikes measuring 8 to 10 inches in length” had been driven into trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest.

Spiking trees involves inserting metal or ceramic rods into trunks so they can’t be safely cut down, and the tactic has sometimes been used to halt timber sales.

Former BLM head Robert Abbey said that Stone-Manning should withdraw her name from consideration for the position.
Former BLM head Robert Abbey said that Stone-Manning should withdraw her name from consideration for the position.
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“As a 30-year BLM career employee, I don’t take her actions lightly, nor should anyone else,” Abbey said, according to The Hill. “If Stone-Manning participated in any aspect of planning, implementation or cover-up in the spiking of trees, then she should not be confirmed.”

The letter warned officials that the trees “were marked so that no workers would be injured and so that you a–holes know that they are spiked. The majority of the trees were spiked within the first ten feet, but many, many others were spiked as high as a hundred and fifty feet.”

“P.S., You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt,” concluded the letter, which was obtained by Fox News last week.

Stone-Manning later testified against Blount and another person involved in the spiking after receiving immunity from prosecutors. During the trial, she admitted to retyping the letter almost “word-for-word,” as well as to renting a typewriter for the job because “I didn’t want it on my personal computer.”

At the time, the Missoulian newspaper in Montana reported that Stone-Manning had said she could have been charged with conspiracy if she had not agreed to testify against Blount. The paper also reported that prosecutors had subpoenaed her in the course of their investigation and required her to submit hair and handwriting samples to a grand jury.

Both defendants were ultimately convicted in the case, with Blount sentenced to 17 months in prison.

“Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with eco-terrorists,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement earlier this month. “She worked with extreme environmental activists who spiked trees, threatening the lives and livelihoods of loggers. While she was given immunity from prosecution to testify against her companions in court, her actions were disgraceful.”

Sen. John Barrasso spoke out against Stone-Manning's nomination.
Sen. John Barrasso spoke out against Stone-Manning’s nomination.
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Former Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who tapped Stone-Manning to run the state’s Department of Environmental Quality in 2013, recently told the Associated Press the case should have no bearing on her nomination.

“She helped send a guy to prison 30 years ago when she was a college kid,” Bullock said. “It’s never been a secret at all.”

Stone-Manning requires 51 votes to be confirmed in the evenly divided Senate.

With Post wires

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