For most of us, sins from 32 years ago generally don’t have much relevance in our lives today. But there are rare instances when a person can’t walk away from a “mistake” from the distant past.
Folks who were around during the tree-spiking controversy in the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho in 1989 would tell the politicians that anyone who had anything to do with this twisted form of eco-terrorism – no matter how slight the involvement might have been – should not be directing the Bureau of Land Management.
Yet, with Senate confirmation looming (possibly before the summer break on Aug. 9), Tracy Stone-Manning is about to take her place as the director of the agency that manages one in every 10 acres in the U.S. and about 30 percent of the nation’s minerals. The BLM manages nearly 65 million acres of forests and woodlands across 12 western states and Alaska.
With 63 percent of Idaho being on federal lands, there is no question about the importance of the BLM to the Gem State. Sen. Jim Risch describes the BLM as a “good agency” and said in a recent letter to President Biden that “any individual who leads this important agency must have the faith and trust of the American people. Ms. Stone-Manning has violated this trust.”
There’s little suspense how this will shake out in the Senate. Democrats will vote for confirmation, Republicans will vote against and Vice President Kamala Harris will break the tie, thus giving the job to Stone-Manning.
Stone-Manning didn’t drive spikes into the trees and she probably had nothing to do with the organizing and planning of the effort, aimed at stopping logging. But she has acknowledged that she retyped and sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service warning that 500 pounds of spikes had been jammed into the trees of every Idaho forest.
That’s too close to the crime scene. As you can imagine, the letter scared the bejeebers of forest managers and loggers. Serious injury or death can be the result when a saw blade hits those spikes.
“What happens when the saw hits this spike is what happens in a war when a hand grenade goes off,” said Risch, a leading opponent of Stone-Manning’s confirmation.
Democrats say that stuff happened 32 years ago. Stone-Manning has spent most of her adult life and career achieving solutions to western land and water issues and has never condoned actions that could injure anyone.
Good for her. However, some of the spikes from the 1989 incident are still in the trees and it’s understandable that no one in their right mind will risk life to touch those trees with a saw. Risch, for one, is not willing to let bygones be bygones, or dismiss the incident 32 years ago as a childish prank.
“This is not a mistake,” he said. “A mistake is when you reach in your sock drawer and you take out two socks that don’t match. This is a knowing, willful, intentional act done with a black, abandoned, and malignant heart, intended to kill a fellow human being.”
As for Stone-Manning, Risch said, “this woman was deeply involved and the fact that she has tried to minimize her involvement, I get that. Most criminals do that. But we have clear evidence that she was deeply involved. Not only evidence from third parties, but herself where she admits she wrote this letter.”
Risch told his colleagues that Stone-Manning shouldn’t be in front of a committee for confirmation to a major post; she belongs in front of a jury, explaining her actions.
“My friends, look, if you want to confirm her, you absolutely can,” Risch said. “But believe me, this stain on this administration will last for the next three and a half years.”
And the confirmation is being delivered by Democrats – the bastions for integrity and high ethical standards … the party that wants to investigate Donald Trump every time he sneezes.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org