Tracy Stone-Manning investigation sought by watchdog over possible lies to Congress

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Tracy Stone-Manning now heads the Bureau of Land Management, but that doesn’t mean the uproar over her involvement in a 1989 tree-spiking plot is over.

Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog group, filed a federal complaint Tuesday asking Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt to investigate claims that Ms. Stone-Manning violated the False Statements Act in her written testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In the complaint, group director Michael Chamberlain said her response to a question about whether she had been under federal investigation “was evasive and misrepresented her involvement in the criminal investigation that resulted in felony convictions and prison time for two associates.”

The Senate questionnaire asked if she had “ever been investigated, arrested, or charged by any federal, state, or local law enforcement authority for the violation of any federal, state, or local law, regulation, or ordinance, other than a minor traffic offense?”

Ms. Stone-Manning replied: “No, I have never been arrested or charged and to my knowledge I have never been the target of such an investigation,” but included an addendum.

“In 1989, I testified before a federal grand jury in Boise, Idaho, as part of an investigation into an alleged tree-spiking incident related to a timber sale. I later testified in a trial that resulted in the conviction of a responsible individual,” she said in her response.

She was confirmed Sept. 30 by the Senate without any votes from Republicans, who said her involvement in the case was disqualifying and accused her of lying about it in her testimony.

“By refusing to provide details that might have been harmful to her confirmation prospects, Ms. Stone-Manning’s response appears designed to willfully and knowingly misrepresent and/or conceal her involvement in an eco-terrorism conspiracy that required her court testimony in order to receive immunity from federal prosecution,” said Mr. Chamberlain in the complaint.

While Ms. Stone-Manning denied being under investigation, former USDA special agent Michael Merkley told the committee in a July 14 letter that the grand jury issued a subpoena for her fingerprints and samples of her hair and handwriting, and later sent her a “target letter” warning that she would be indicted.

She ultimately struck an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in exchange for her 1993 testimony against two suspects, who were convicted. She was never charged.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, defended her during the Senate floor debate, saying that “being required to testify or give physical evidence to a grand jury does not make someone the target of a grand jury investigation.”

Ms. Stone-Manning admitted to retyping, editing and mailing an anonymous letter on behalf of one of the perpetrators warning authorities about the spiked trees in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest.

“Stone-Manning said she could have been charged with conspiracy because she mailed the letter for Blount, were it not for her agreement with the U.S. attorney,” said a 1993 article in the Missoulian.

She heads an agency with about 9,500 employees charged with managing 245 million acres of federal land, or about one-tenth the nation’s land base, and 700 million acres of subsurface minerals.

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