Wildfires and land management should not be a partisan issue, and nowhere is it more evident than in California. In order to prevent the catastrophic dangers that fires pose to homes, businesses, public lands, and the environment, we need active management and collaborative solutions.
As California enters possibly its worst fire season on record, we must have trustworthy leadership managing our public lands as our forests and the future of our communities depend on it. President Biden’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) nominee, Tracy Stone-Manning, does not embody that type of trustworthy leadership.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees 245 million acres of public lands across the West. Of these 245 million acres, the U.S. Forest Service’s fireshed mapping has identified 71% of BLM lands that have the potential for wildfires to ignite and spread to communities. In California alone, over 149 million trees have died due to insects, disease, and wildfires; and over half a million acres have already burned just this year.
Ms. Stone-Manning is directly tied to an incident of tree spiking in the Clearwater National Forest. Tree spiking is an act of eco-terrorism in which perpetrators place 8- to 10-inch metal spikes in trees with the intent to injure or even kill timber workers. Her actions and the role she played during the tree spiking incident is unbefitting of a leader set to oversee our nation’s public lands and more than 10,000 federal employees.
Tracy Stone-Manning lied under oath — not once, but twice. In 2013, she was nominated to head the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and she withheld the truth about her involvement in the 1989 tree spiking. Earlier this year, during her confirmation hearing to serve as director of the Bureau of Land Management, she lied yet again to U.S. senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It is clear she believes herself to be above the law.
Californians know that any leader must work cooperatively with state and federal agencies and local communities on issues facing our public lands. President Biden’s nominee does not display cooperation; in fact, Special Agent Michael Merkle, the Forest Service’s lead investigator of the tree spiking incident, wrote, “Throughout this initial investigation in 1989, Ms. Stone-Manning was extremely difficult to work with; in fact, she was the nastiest of the suspects” and was “vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government.”
Just a matter of a few months ago, Ms. Stone-Manning tweeted an article written by her husband in which he suggested letting houses built in forests burn: “Perhaps the solution to houses in the interface is to let them burn.” She called her husband’s article a “clarion call.”
What kind of message does this send to communities in California who have experienced utter devastation — and even the loss of loved ones — in the face of catastrophic wildfires?
Tracy Stone-Manning has shown herself to be uniquely unqualified to lead a federal agency and has demonstrated a total disregard for rural Americans. Californians and the West need a leader who will protect their homes, recreation areas, and workplaces, and someone who will effectively collaborate with state, local, and federal officials. Tracy Stone-Manning will not.
I urge Senators Feinstein and Padilla to stand up for California’s forests and public lands and oppose Tracy Stone-Manning’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Land Management.