Sens. James Risch (R-Idaho) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced a bill last week to stop the eco-terrorist tactic of tree spiking, after the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning as director of the Bureau of Land Management.
The extent of Stone-Manning’s involvement in tree spiking, a form of eco-terrorism that involves driving spikes into trees to deter, injure, or kill loggers, remains a contentious topic.
In written testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) in June, Stone-Manning stated that she “had no involvement in the spiking of trees” during an incident back in 1989. She was a graduate student in environmental studies at the University of Montana at that time.
She said that she had merely retyped and sent a written warning to the U.S. Forest Service from fellow activist John Blount about an act of tree spiking, after which she worked with her attorney to gain immunity for testifying in the trial of Blount and others.
“At the time, I believed that I was notifying the authorities by sending the letter,” Stone-Manning wrote.
Others dispute her account. In a letter to ENR committee Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.) and ranking member Barrasso, Michael W. Merkley, a retired forest service agent who was assigned to investigate the 1989 tree spiking case, wrote: “Contrary to many of the stories in the news, Ms. Stone-Manning was not an innocent bystander, nor was she a victim in this case. And, she most certainly was not a hero.”
According to Merkley’s letter, Blount’s one-time girlfriend, Guenevere Lilburn, told Merkley that Stone-Manning had helped plan the tree spiking, even deliberating whether to use metal or ceramic spikes. Merkley further stated that “Ms. Stone-Manning only came forward only after her attorney struck the immunity deal, and not before she was caught.” [Italics in original.]
E&E News reports that Blount has offered a third distinct account, stating that Stone-Manning was aware of the tree spiking scheme several months before it was executed, but denying that she was heavily involved in devising the plan.
“Ms. Stone Manning was never charged with spiking trees; she was never tried for spiking trees; and none of the men who did spike trees ever suggested that she did,” Manchin wrote in a statement to the committee. “I have been unable to find any credible evidence in the exhaustive trial record of the tree spiking case that shows that Ms. Stone Manning was an ‘eco-terrorist,’ that she spiked any trees, that she conspired with ‘eco-terrorists’ to spike trees, or that she lied to the Committee.”
As of press time, neither Manchin nor Sen. Jon Tester (R-Mont.) had responded to requests for comment on the new bill. Efforts to reach Stone-Manning were unsuccessful.
“Tracy Stone-Manning’s defenders have tried to spin her testimony as helping to put away the bad guys,” Barrasso said during a business meeting before the ENR committee on July 22.
“The reality is she helped plan the tree spiking, covered up the terrorist activity for years. She did not cooperate with the authorities, she did not cooperate with investigators, and only testified after she was caught and received immunity.”
Risch also voiced his opposition to Stone-Manning’s nomination during the July 22 meeting.
“I’ve only been on this committee 13 years, but I’ve got to tell you, this is probably the most significant act of an insult to a really good agency and the people in that agency that I’ve ever seen perpetrated by this committee,” he said.
The American Loggers Council voted unanimously in opposition to Stone-Manning’s nomination.
On July 27, the full Senate voted 50–49 to discharge Stone-Manning’s nomination from the ENR committee, ensuring her nomination would move forward. Risch strenuously objected to the move, calling Stone-Manning “a perjurer, an eco-terrorist, a person who has participated in a conspiracy to murder innocent people working in the forest.”
On July 30, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) announced that she would co-sponsor Barrasso and Risch’s $10 million bill, the Tree Spiking Mitigation Act of 2021, which would require the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to detect, identify, and mitigate tree spiking devices on federal land.
“The term mitigate gives the agencies freedom to assess the situation and respond appropriately,” a spokesperson for Republicans on the ENR committee told The Epoch Times. “That could mean carefully removing spiked trees. It could mean removing the spikes, although this is very difficult. It could also mean mapping and posting warnings on each identified spiked tree.”
The spokesperson noted that it wasn’t clear when the Senate would consider the bill.
A spokesperson for Risch confirmed to The Epoch Times that the bill was inspired by Stone-Manning’s nomination.
“The lingering effects of the 1989 tree-spiking plot in the Clearwater National Forest were brought to light by Ms. Stone-Manning’s nomination,” the spokesperson wrote.
“It is our understanding that there are still spiked trees standing in the forest in Idaho today; however, there is no clear record of where these spiked trees are located, let alone any active program to remediate this safety hazard.
“Senator Risch asked the Chief of the Forest Service about this issue months ago and has yet to hear back. Any markings that may have once identified the spiked trees are long gone. As such, these trees continue to pose a threat to firefighters or smoke jumpers should they need to remove one during emergency operations. Moreover, it also presents a danger to loggers and sawmill workers should the area be harvested again someday.”
Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 1864, “Hazardous or injurious devices on federal lands,” specifies that individuals who plant tree spiking devices on federal land in order to interfere with timber production shall be subject to fines or imprisonment, including life imprisonment if a device causes an individual’s death.
“Conspiring [with] eco-terrorists & threatening [Forest Service] employees, loggers & mill workers are heinous acts that don’t fade with time,” Risch wrote on Twitter on Aug. 2. “Tracy Stone-Manning is unfit to lead [Bureau of Land Management]. My … colleagues & I will continue to fight this nomination.”
The nomination hasn’t yet been scheduled for a vote.