BLM candidate was an early target in tree planting affair – Friday June 25, 2021 – www.eenews.net
A retired federal law enforcement officer who investigated the 1989 tree-hanging incident that consumed Tracy Stone-Manning’s appointment as head of the Bureau of Land Management said investigators suspected her of knowing about the crime before she began to cooperate with the investigation.
The official, who agreed to speak on condition of not being identified, said she did not initially help authorities identify two men who were ultimately found guilty of planting hundreds of trees in an area. Idaho National Forest. This initial lack of cooperation with law enforcement delayed the investigation for several years, he said.
“She absolutely refused to do anything” to advance the investigation, said the retired officer.
Senate Republicans accused Stone-Manning of misrepresenting his involvement in the case, particularly in his written responses to a standardized questionnaire submitted to the committee in May.
The document asked if she had “ever been the subject of an investigation, arrest or charge by any federal, state or local law enforcement authority for violating any law, regulation or charge. federal, state or local ordinance, other than a minor traffic violation. “
Stone-Manning replied that she had “never been arrested or charged and to my knowledge I have never been the target of such an investigation.”
She acknowledged in her written response that in 1989, “I testified before a federal grand jury in Boise, Idaho, in an investigation into an alleged tree-hanging incident related to a sale of wood. I then testified in a trial which resulted in the conviction of a responsible individual.
The federal investigator said he saw her as a target of the grand jury investigation.
Stone-Manning, a University of Montana graduate student at the time, was to submit hair samples, fingerprints, palm samples and a handwriting sample.
That’s because investigators found a sweater at the tree-planting site, along with a hair sample and a short handwritten note. The origins of the sweater and the note have never been identified, the former investigator said.
Stone-Manning eventually testified against two activist friends – John Blount and Jeffrey Fairchild – who were both later convicted of equipping hundreds of trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest with metal spikes in the goal of blocking a timber sale in 1989.
So far, the White House and Senate Democrats have backed Stone-Manning, a longtime Montana government official and currently senior conservation policy advisor to the National Wildlife Federation, in her bid to become the first director approved by the BLM Senate for over four years. .
The Home Office declined to comment on this story. Stone-Manning could not be reached for comment.
Republicans, including Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a leading member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called for Stone-Manning’s resignation, saying his brief involvement with the Earth First group, which advocated the addition of trees was “disqualifying”.
George Breitsameter, the former Justice Department attorney who pursued the case against Blount and Fairchild, declined to answer specific questions about the case, saying: “It has been over 20 years.” But he said he was happy with the way things turned out.
âTwo people have been charged,â Breitsameter said. “They are the ones who went to the site and planted the trees.”
Court records indicate that Stone-Manning was not involved in heading the trees and did not know in advance that Blount and Fairchild were going to prick the trees. But Blount ordered Stone-Manning days after the trees were planted to send an anonymous letter he wrote to the forest service warning them not to cut down the spiked trees.
The case remained dormant until 1992, when Blount’s former wife contacted the FBI to identify Blount and Fairchild as the men who planted the trees. The woman also told investigators that Stone-Manning was the one who sent the letter to Clearwater National Forest, the retired investigator said.
âI got a call from the FBI in Boston, Mass., Asking if I had a tree crash case here. I said ‘Yes’. He said,’ Guess what? I have a lady here in my office who can provide you with the information you need, âsaid the retired investigator.
The former investigator said Stone-Manning agreed to testify after this information was presented to him.
âThe only reasons Tracy Stone-Manning became a Cooperator, if you want to call it that, is because she was captured,â he said.
Testimony at trial
During the 1993 federal jury trial in Spokane, Wash., Stone-Manning testified with the same version of events that she has reiterated for almost 30 years.
She said that as a University of Montana graduate student in 1989, her friends – Blount and Fairchild – asked her to send a letter alerting the Spike Tree Forest Service in the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. Stone-Manning also described herself as an “informal spokesperson” for Earth First, The Associated Press reported earlier this month, relying on trial transcripts.
“As prosecutors tried to tie the case to Earth First !, Stone-Manning said most activists in the Missoula area opposed the reinforcement,” High Country News reported at the time.
Stone-Manning offered a more detailed version of events in a lengthy interview with the Missoulian journal in 2013, following his appointment as director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
âThis guy wasn’t a college student, he just sort of hung out and stood out,â Stone-Manning told the newspaper of Blount. “I was not confident that he would inform the Forest Service if the letter was not sent.”
Stone-Manning will eventually retype the letter before sending it, fearing that the original will have his fingerprints “everywhere.”
“The easy thing to do would have been to burn that letter and go away and not be associated with it, but it was not the right thing to do because the trees were spiky and someone could be injured when the loggers were sent, âshe said. the newspaper.
Stone-Manning claimed it was his own decision to contact the FBI about the incident several years later in 1993 in an effort to protect Blount’s wife. This woman will later testify against Blount during his trial.
“She knew all about the history of the tree planting, and she knew if she told anything that could keep him in jail,” Stone-Manning told the newspaper, claiming that Blount had beaten his wife. “She asked me if I wanted to testify, and I said yes, and he went to jail.”
Reporters Jennifer Yachnin and Kevin Bogardus contributed.