Land management in the United States of America would not have been of much moment in South Asia were it not for President Biden’s notable victory in the midst of the discord over his dealings with Afghanistan. He has doubtless scored a remarkable victory in the fractious Senate. Thursday’s legislative approval of the President’s choice of Tracy Stone-Manning to oversee government land owned in the west has effectively been accorded the short shrift to complaints that she is an eco-terrorist. Her selection to helm the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management was approved by 50-45 votes.
Despite qualms of a section of legislators, the support that she enjoys is beyond doubt. It was a bitter contest considering the acrimonious debate during which several Republicans held up a metal spike that was similar to the one used in a 1989 envirironmental sabotage case. It is a measure of the inherent support that Stone-Manning enjoys that she has never been charged with a crime and had in fact testified against two men who were convicted of spiking trees to sabotage a timber sale to Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest. She holds strong views against gas drilling, logging and other commercial activity on federal lands.
The land management agency oversees energy production, grazing, recreation and other activities on nearly a quarter-billion acres of public land, primarily in the West. Stone-Manning’s advocacy for land preservation contrasts sharply with the land bureau’s priorities under President Trump, who had hastened oil and gas development. Her nomination has also been dogged by Republican accusations of wrongdoing in the 1989 ploy that was thwarted. Two of her colleagues were later convicted of inserting metal spikes into trees, which makes them dangerous to hack and can be used to block logging. She received immunity from prosecutors, had testified against the two men, and was never charged with any crime. Stone-Manning was an unofficial spokesperson for the activist group, Earth First, which opposes logging, the building of dams, advocates civil disobedience, and opposes development activity in general.
The two men connected in the planned sabotage were loosely affiliated to the group. The environmental factor is, therefore, central to the case. According to a former investigator for the US Forest Servie, Stone-Manning was a target of criminal investigation and had helped plan what they call “tree spiking”. Others involved in the case, including the lead prosecutor, have disputed the chacterisation. Despite the trenchant criticism of the Republicans, President Biden has had his way. Arguably, the US President hasn’t turned out to be exactly environment-friendly in the midst of the discord the world over over climate change. His stance comes ahead of the next round of jaw-jaw in Glasgow, though it hasn’t neutralised the disaster in Afghanistan, exacerbated after 15 August when the Taliban took over Kabul.