Democrats back Biden US lands pick

Thursday, July 22, 2021

BILLINGS (AP) — A bitterly divided U.S. Senate panel deadlocked Thursday on President Joe Biden’s pick to oversee vast government-owned lands in the West, as Democrats united behind a nominee whose credibility was assailed by Republicans over her links to a 1989 environmental sabotage case.

The 10-10 tie in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee sets up a floor vote on the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning. It would take every Senate Republican plus at least one Democratic lawmaker to block her confirmation in the evenly divided chamber.

At stake is the leadership of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees energy production, grazing, mining, recreation and other activities across almost a quarter-billion acres of public lands, primarily in the West.

Stone-Manning was a top aide to former Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Jon Tester and most recently worked as a vice president at the National Wildlife Federation. Her advocacy for land preservation contrasts sharply with the land bureau’s priorities under former President Donald Trump, who sped up oil and gas drilling and sought to open new lands to development.

Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state said the fierce opposition to Stone-Manning among Republicans was rooted in the change she could bring to the agency.

“This is over the top opposition,” Cantwell said. “What is really on trial here is the future of America’s public lands ... oil, gas, coal, mineral extraction.”

Republican lawmakers derided Stone-Manning over her link to the 1989 sabotage of a timber sale on Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest, calling her an “eco-terrorist” unfit to oversee the land bureau. At the time, she was a 23-year-old environmental studies graduate student at the University of Montana.

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