HELENA — Montanan Tracy Stone-Manning, after a months-long partisan battle, won confirmation Thursday as the new director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, on a 50-45 vote.
As expected, Montana’s two U.S. senators split their votes – Democrat Jon Tester, the lead supporter of his former staffer to be confirmed, voted yes, and Republican Steve Daines voted no.
Republicans, including Daines, worked hard to defeat Stone-Manning’s nomination by President Biden, pointing to her role in the aftermath of a 1989 tree-spiking incident in Idaho.
Her nomination advanced to the Senate floor in late July on a party-line 50-49 vote, with all Republicans present voting against her. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota did not vote.
Stone-Manning, an executive for the National Wildlife Federation in Missoula, is a former top staffer for both Sen. Tester and former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, both Democrats.
As director of the BLM, she would head an agency that manages 250 million acres of federal land and many more acres of mineral rights, mostly in the West. It’s expected to play a key role in the Biden administration’s plans to shift public-land and energy policy.
Republicans in the Senate said that Stone-Manning initially didn’t cooperate with federal investigators looking into the tree-spiking incident, which was carried out in 1989 by people that Stone-Manning knew, when she was a student at the University of Montana.
Stone-Manning acknowledged typing and mailing a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, warning it of metal spikes that had been driven into trees in a national forest timber sale in Idaho.
She said she had nothing to do with the tree-spiking and mailed the letter only at the request of those who did, to warn timber officials about the spikes.
Stone-Manning testified against the tree-spikers at a 1993 trial in federal court; two of them were convicted. She arranged limited immunity from prosecution for herself, before testifying.
Tester has called her a “collaborative, responsible leader,” who would bring “nonpartisan stewardship to our nation’s greatest treasures.”