The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to be director of the Bureau of Land Management after a sharply partisan debate over her truthfulness about a 1989 tree-spiking incident on an Idaho national forest.

The party-line vote was 10-10, meaning Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., must first make a motion to discharge the nomination, which itself will be subject to a vote before the full Senate can consider her nomination.

The committee's top Republican, John Barrasso of Wyoming, accused Stone-Manning of lying in her written answers to the committee when she said she had never been investigated for tree-spiking. Stone-Manning sent an anonymous letter, which she did not write, to the Forest Service warning that trees had been spiked on the Clearwater National Forest.

But Barrasso and other Republicans said the letter was less of a warning and more of a threat, quoting the line, “You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt.”

Barrasso said that only after she was caught and received an immunity deal did she agree to testify at the trial, which resulted in the convictions of two men. Republicans also noted Stone-Manning had been subpoenaed by a grand jury.

Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., however, said staffers had conducted an extensive review of the trial records and said Stone-Manning “was never charged with spiking trees, she was never tried for spiking trees.” He later characterized her as “a youthful sympathizer for the environment.”

The debate included charges from senators Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that Republicans have taken the “ecoterrorist” allegations about Stone-Manning more seriously than they have the events of Jan. 6.

“I’ve heard a lot of lies about Tracy Stone-Manning on this committee,” Heinrich said. “I am disgusted by what has happened ... This is the worst example of character assassination that I have ever seen on this committee.”

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“More than a few members of this committee refuse to hold the instigator [of the Jan. 6 takeover of the Capitol] responsible and yet they’re hell-bent on dragging Ms. Stone-Manning’s name through the mud. She has a 20-year history or working with the timber industry in Montana.”

Stone-Manning is a senior adviser at the National Wildlife Federation, where she also has headed the group’s public lands program. She also has been director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and served as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. She has the backing of dozens of conservation groups.

Barrasso, however, observed that both the Dallas and Houston Safari clubs, which represent hunters, initially supported Stone-Manning’ nomination but now oppose it.

Sen. Lisa Murkoswki, R-Alaska, focused on Stone-Manning’s record, saying the nominee “doesn’t have the balanced approach that I am looking for" when it comes to implementing the BLM’s mandate to manage its lands for multiple uses, which include energy development, timber harvest, recreation, grazing and conservation.

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