OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
A government watchdog organization on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Interior Department’s office of inspector general alleging that the new director of the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning, lied to Congress during her recent confirmation hearing testimony.
“The Protect the Public’s Trust complaint raises concerns about whether Stone-Manning violated the False Statements Act during her testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,” Just the News reported.
The BLM director told the committee she has “never been arrested or charged and to my knowledge, I have never been the target of such an investigation,” after she was asked about her criminal history.
The outlet continued:
Protect the Public’s Trust points out her response appears designed to “willfully and knowingly misrepresent and/or conceal her involvement” with an eco-terrorism conspiracy. According to PPT, publicly available information indicates that the nominee had been investigated and required to provide fingerprints, palm prints and handwriting samples to a grand jury.
The group thinks Stone-Manning may have been aware in advance of a conspiracy to commit eco-terrorist acts and that the resulting investigation did in fact “target” her. According to the group, some pieces of evidence suggest that Stone-Manning received a “target letter” from a grand jury, which, if true, would mean she was untruthful in her response to Congress.
Also, retired Special Agent Michael Merkley noted in a letter to the committee’s top Republican, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Stone-Manning said a witness to a “tree-spiking” sabotage incident “recounted a conversation she had overheard wherein Ms. Stone-Manning along with other co-conspirators planned the tree-spiking and discussed whether to use ceramic or metal spikes in the trees.”
“Although it’s been more than 25 years since then, I am still concerned about what the members of this group could do to me and my family,” Merkley wrote. “However, despite this … I feel compelled to come forward and share the truth with you.”
E&E News Greenwire adds:
But John Blount, one of two men convicted of spiking the trees, said Stone-Manning did not participate in the plan to outfit hundreds of trees at Clearwater National Forest with nails and metal spikes in an effort to stop a timber sale.
“She knew about it far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out,” said Blount, the ringleader of the operation who was convicted of tree spiking in 1993 and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
“Was she heavily involved in the planning? Did she go put a nail in a tree or anything? Absolutely not,” Blount added.
But, he said, “She had agreed to mail the letter well in advance” of the actual tree-spiking operation.
“Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) operates as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting integrity in government and restoring the public’s trust in government officials. In pursuit of this mission, we are requesting an investigation into whether Tracy Stone-Manning, the new Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), made false statements to Congress during her confirmation process,” the group wrote in their letter to the agency’s inspector general, Mark Lee Greenblatt.
“By refusing to provide details that might have been harmful to her confirmation prospects, Ms. Stone-Manning’s response appears designed to willfully and knowingly misrepresent and/or conceal her involvement in an eco-terrorism conspiracy that required her court testimony in order to receive immunity from federal prosecution,” the letter to the IG continued.
“The need for such a review cannot be overstated. In 2020, the Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report into whether the previous BLM leadership made statements to Congress that misrepresented material facts as it pertained to the agency’s move to Grand Junction, Colorado. While the complex, internal decision-making regarding the BLM’s move out West warranted serious inquiry, this alleged violation on issues of honesty and integrity in the confirmation process before the U.S. Senate about a matter as grave as participation in eco-terrorism surely demands an equivalent investigation,” the watchdog group noted.