Joe Biden Announces BLM Nominee But Republicans Push Back

Posted: July 21, 2021

On July 16th, Joe Biden announced his nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning, but Republicans are already calling for her to be withdrawn. Tracy Stone-Manning has a history working for several environmental protection agencies, and a murky past of supporting environmental extremists. The BLM is the largest landowner in the country, overseeing more than 245 million acres, and much of that land is currently off-limits to oil and gas producers.

Selecting A New Director

The BLM is an agency that oversees hundreds of millions of acres of federal land, including all national forests and grasslands. The bureau’s director is appointed by and reports to the Secretary of Interior, which currently is Deb Haaland. Because the BLM also manages the federal government’s onshore oil and gas program, Republicans want a director who will allow access to development, while Democrats want more protections for the land.

Stone-Manning’s Past Experience

Tracy Stone-Manning is known for her past work with environmental organizations and federal agencies, especially within the state of Montana. Stone-Manning’s history ranges from working at places like the Montana Department of Environmental Policy to the National Wildlife Federation where she was Senior Advisor for Conservation Policy. Her job often placed her in contact with conservationists, some more radical than others, which has led some Republicans to suspect Stone-Manning may be too close to environmentalists to be objective.

Her Proven Problematic Past

Stone-Manning has been involved in environmental protection for years, most notably her work with citizen groups in Montana. In 1989 she admitted to mailing an anonymous letter on behalf of an activist who participated in tree spiking. Tree spiking involves inserting metal rods into trees that prevent chainsaws or other logging tools from being able to cut them down. She was granted prosecutorial immunity to testify against the activist who went to prison for 17 months. Democrats and past BLM directors claim that she has distanced herself from that past and is the right person for the job. Republicans think that her involvement may represent too much of a conflict of interest.

Tracy Stone-Manning
(Image from Montanan Public Radio)

What it Means for Oil and Gas

Since she has a history of conservation at best and eco-terrorism at worst, she may support the Biden administration’s goal of shifting away from hydrocarbon use. While it is possible Stone-Manning could generate a program that seeks to approve oil and gas activity responsibly, many fear that it will make oil and gas operations on federal land that much more inaccessible. So far, the Biden administration has halted lease sales through Q2 of 2021 with no signs of retroactively holding them despite complaints from a handful of states. While it is difficult to locate the data on outstanding lease sales, it is almost assuredly high as this moratorium was initiated on Biden’s first days in office. If Stone-Manning is approved for the position, she is sure to have her hands full for quite some time.

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