Manchin backs Stone-Manning to lead Bureau of Land Management

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) plans to support the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management, a spokesperson confirmed Monday, a major boost for the nominee who is facing strong GOP opposition because of her connection to radical environmentalists in the 1980s.

Manchin's support likely ensures the Energy Committee he chairs will deadlock on the Stone-Manning selection when it considers the pick on Thursday. All 10 Republicans wrote a letter last week urging President Joe Biden to abandon the pick over her role in a tree spiking incident carried out by members of the group Earth First! that was designed to stop logging in Montana's forests.

Stone-Manning, who has since worked for decades as a senior regulator in Montana and is a former aide to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), has been fiercely defended by Democrats who argue the GOP opposition to her selection is fueled by political motivations. Her former boss, Democratic former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in 2020 for his Senate seat.

Tester has steadfastly defended his former aide to colleagues, and he told reporters last week: "I have worked with this woman very, very closely. She’s more solid than a lot of the people that are attacking her." The White House reiterated its support of Stone-Manning again on Monday.

Republicans have bashed her as an "eco-terrorist" and contended that she lied to lawmakers by saying she did not believe she had ever been the target of an investigation.

The now-retired federal investigator in the tree-spiking case said in a letter last week that Stone-Manning had displayed "vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government" behavior during the initial 1989 investigation, and that she knew she was a target in 1993 when she negotiated a cooperation agreement with prosecutors and testified against two men in the case.