Retired Law Enforcement FS Employee Quoted in Wall Street Journal, and the Non-Partisan Table of Past Indiscretions

I try to stay away from Partisan Political Drama, especially Department of the Interior Political Drama, but had to share this editorial board piece in the Wall Street Journal about a Forest Service law enforcement retiree. I had to sign up for the Wall Street Journal to access it so I thought I’d share the FS retiree part of the article so you all don’t have to.

In responses to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Ms. Stone-Manning attested she was never “a target” of the investigation. She says she knew nothing of the plot and does not recall “ever discussing tree spiking” with the perpetrators. Her excuse for not immediately turning them in to authorities was that she “did not actually know if they had done what the letter described.”

Public documents have cast suspicion on this version of events, but now the former lead investigator of the 1989 crime has come forward with evidence suggesting Ms. Stone-Manning’s testimony is false. Michael Merkley, a retired special agent for the Forest Service, in a four-page letter to the committee says Ms. Stone-Manning was “not an innocent bystander.” After an investigation led his team to search the Missoula residence where Ms. Stone-Manning and other Earth First! members had lived, he says, a grand jury served subpoenas “on persons suspected of having knowledge of the incident, including Ms. Tracy Stone-Manning.”

Mr. Merkley reports that Ms. Stone-Manning through his investigation was “vulgar, antagonistic, and extremely anti-government” and refused to provide the hair, handwriting and fingerprint samples ordered by the grand jury until threatened with arrest. She refused to answer questions, leaving investigators in the dark for years about the suspects.

Mr. Merkley says that in 1992 he made contact with another woman in the group, who exposed the spikers and Ms. Stone-Manning’s involvement. But this woman also “recounted a conversation she had overheard wherein Ms. Stone-Manning along with other co-conspirators planned the tree spiking and discussed whether to use metal or ceramic spikes in the trees.” This testimony, he says, inspired the grand jury to send Ms. Stone-Manning “a ‘target letter’ which meant she was going to be indicted on criminal charges.” She negotiated a deal “to gain immunity in exchange for her testimony.”

Meanwhile, backing up Mr. Merkley is a new interview in E&E news with John Blount, a ringleader of the operation, who went to jail for 17 months. While Ms. Stone-Manning was not “heavily involved in the planning,” he says she “knew about it far in advance, a couple of months before we headed out.” He provided details of the plan, saying Ms. Stone-Manning was supposed to mail the letter from Billings, in order to throw off investigators.

Anyway, we have seen various problems with high level appointees of various kinds.. and the press tends to be remarkably partisan in their ways of reporting.

So.. I think we need to develop a “Non-Partisan Table of Past Indiscretions” so we can apply the same criteria to appointees from different groups.

1. What was it?
2. How long ago?
3. Was it a one-off or continuing?
4. What kind of evidence is there?
5. Was law enforcement involved, if so how?
6. What job is it exactly? Should we be more careful about a Supreme Court Justice than a BLM Director?

Feel free to add other criteria to the Table.

Finally, it seems a bit odd that the Admin knew about it and nominated her anyway. Because President Biden said he was trying to unify the country, and this doesn’t seem like the way to do it. IMHO. Perhaps it’s intended to be a sharp stick in the eye to someone.. but who and why? Certainly not Montana loggers?

Many sources state that BLM morale has been bad since the Trump Administration. If I worked there, both this nomination and the level of “sticking by” that’s occurring wouldn’t help my morale. I’d prefer a retired diverse career person who was widely respected by the rank and file. You?

19 thoughts on “Retired Law Enforcement FS Employee Quoted in Wall Street Journal, and the Non-Partisan Table of Past Indiscretions”

  1. It’s highly doubtful President Biden would have nominated her had he believed she wouldn’t be confirmed but in the event the Senate balks he should simply appoint her acting director.

  2. I’m not in favor of her confirmation. However this is due to the way she treated mountain bikers while working for Sen. Tester. I was unaware of the tree spiking fiasco.

  3. It seems to me that the overriding criterion should be how it would affect their future job performance. In this case, whether she “participated” or “lied” seems to be a matter of opinion:

    In my limited experience with her I think she has grown into what everyone else says she is – a good facilitator rather than an ideologue. The only “stick in the eye” being poked here is by the Republicans who want to make Biden look bad. (Manchin just announced his support, so maybe this is over with.)

    • I would tend to believe a retired FS LE over politicals. And if your “future job performance” criterion were applied then many sexual slip-ups in the past could easily be forgiven as well. But so far the application of any of these seems to be resolutely partisan.

      I think in this case, the Republicans have a point.. why pick her among so many outstanding possibilities without that questionable background? A political favor to Sen. Tester (it’s a load of crap”) in exchange for ….? “it’s a load of crap”

      Or just the “good old person network” is more important than your colleagues in the Senate’s (and not to speak for them, I would think Montana’s loggers) views? It would be nice if someone would leak what was discussed in those meetings…

      This Admin is perfectly capable of finding and picking people without those kinds of problems (see USDA appointees) , and political operatives are not stupid. So if it was intentional, the only question is “why”?

      • On point, sharon, re: “future job performance” – it’s a vague-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness criterion here because a) it’s almost entirely speculative and in the eye of the beholder and b) committees have to go on past records as an index to a person’s character, agenda, and whatever else you want to factor into a confirmation. A great many supporters of the previous admin used something analogous to a promise of future job performance as a way to elide discussions of character and past indiscretion, so, maybe something for dems to be wary of here.

        Some kind of weighting on past indiscretions and how they apply to the character of the nominee, how they apply to the ability to carry out the tasks of the position, and whether or not they may compromise the needed (relative) independence of a department leader, meaning no undue amount of capture of that nominee by any one group or agenda (a whole other kettle of fish, I recognize)

      • “So if it was intentional, the only question is “why”?”
        You might put that one to QAnon.

        I think it is simply reasonable by those doing the selecting to accept her version of the facts. Conservative World seems hooked on assembling stories from disputed or proven false information and presenting them as reality. And, as we’ve started to realize from police shootings, law enforcement will do the same thing. They should have no greater presumed inherent credibility.

        (I like A’s take below on “future job performance.”)

        • I don’t quite get the relationship between this nomination and QAnon.
          I don’t live in Conservative World, but how do you know the information is “false”?

          I’m more inclined to believe retired FS folks than politicians.. as Hannah Arendt said “Truthfulness has never been counted among political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings.”

          I don’t see this as a racial bias issue a la police shootings. And to assume that law enforcement folks have no “greater” credibility… than whom? Politicians?

          There are plenty of well-qualified people out there who could do the job well. If I were one of their short list, I would definitely be wondering why they picked her, knowing this background. I’d have to wonder if it were an intentional provocation/payback to someone for something, or just a very strong good old person network connection that’s been chosen over an chance at unifying. Which D’s are perfectly capable of doing, and consistently do with USDA appointments.

          • ” just a very strong good old person network connection that’s been chosen over an chance at unifying.”


          • “knowing this background”
            That’s my point. You don’t know this background; you infer it based on your biases (such as FS retirees get some sort of credibility bonus) and suspicions.

            • Well.. both sides seem to agree that she was involved with the group. So does that count as “known”?

              My point was that to know for sure when people disagree, you’d have to have an unbiased (or evenly bipartisan) group look into the different testimony, records, etc.

              BUT they wouldn’t have to do that if the Admin had picked … someone else..
              Like I said, there are plenty of diverse folks out there that could have been picked without that kind of baggage and perhaps who might be better generally for employee morale.

              • Hi Sharon,

                RE: “Like I said, there are plenty of diverse folks out there that could have been picked without that kind of baggage and perhaps who might be better generally for employee morale.”

                I would’ve really liked to see you say that when Donald Trump allowed Willian Perry Pendley to illegally run the Bureau of Land Management, especially given Pendley’s anti-public lands words and actions, as well as some statements that some found racist and anti-Indigenous.

                • There were so many stories about Pendley that I didn’t see the point.
                  It’s so sad to me that Interior and BLM are so politicized. After all, the Forest Service got Jim Hubbard under the Trump Administration, and Randy Moore now as Chief.

              • It’s your values that call the known facts “baggage.” And I’d like to hear why you think the known (ancient) “baggage” would be bad for employee morale.

                • I’ve never worked for the BLM, but previous BLM directors and retirees have come down in different places about this (being bad for employee morale), so clearly they have different views about what it would do to morale. So here’s my point.. if x employees are bothered by it and y are not, why not say “hey BLM employees have been through a rough time (as they frequently say about the move to GJ) so we’re not going to pick her, even if it only offends x, that’s x too many.”

                  We can disagree about how important it is… but many possible directors don’t have any such background.

  4. The reasons are clear. Republicans are evil and want to destroy democratic representative assemblage to advance authoritarian control over public lands.

    • Larry calling groups of people evil is not something we do here… there’s plenty of opportunity in other social media venues. You have lots of interesting ideas and observations, but this one was over the line. Next time, I’ll delete.

    • “Authoritarian control over public lands” is also what conservatives would characterize agency control as, though I would disagree. Point being, calling things that you don’t like authoritarian does nothing to advance the discussion.

    • Which ones, Jim? Have they gone on record? Are they also FS retirees? It would be interesting if Congressfolk would have a hearing on this with the different testimony and questioning. Otherwise how are we supposed to figure out what is true?


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