Longtime Missoula, Montana, conservation activist Tracy Stone-Manning may be President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, according to several Washington, D.C., sources.
“This would be a big deal for Montana and for all Americans who value our public lands and the thousands of good-paying jobs that depend on their responsible stewardship,” Sen. Jon Tester said in an email statement on Wednesday morning.
Stone-Manning served as a senior aid to Tester before becoming former Gov. Steve Bullock’s chief of staff. She is a senior adviser to the National Wildlife Federation.
Her nomination was first reported by Politico Pro, a Washington, D.C.-based news service. The Washington Post also reported Biden is considering her for BLM.
Stone-Manning was a prominent critic of William Perry Pendley, the previous BLM leader under former President Donald Trump, who resigned after Bullock sued over a controversial redrafting of the agency’s resource management plans for its Missoula and Lewistown regions. Bullock won that suit when a federal judge ruled Pendley had not been confirmed to the post and therefore had no authority to approve the plans.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees about 30% of the nation’s mineral estate and a 10th of its total acreage (245 million acres). The Montana-Dakotas Division covers 8.3 million acres in three states, including the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, Pompey’s Pillar National Monument, Garnet Ghost Town, 27 miles of trail in the Blackfoot River Corridor and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.
The agency’s oversight of mineral rights got it in a complicated controversy over energy development leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region south of Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Pendley represented the lease owner when he was president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, while the Blackfeet and allies insisted the leases were granted illegally on land considered sacred by the Tribe. Pendley went on to push for the development as acting BLM director even though previous Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had proposed making it a national monument.
Pendley served as acting BLM director for 424 days without Senate confirmation or a formal nomination by Trump. Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (who succeeded Zinke) kept Pendley in office through a series of temporary orders, which the federal judge found illegal.
Bullock also chose Stone-Manning as director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. While in Missoula, she served as executive director of the Five Valleys Land Trust and later the Clark Fork Coalition.
“Having Tracy Stone-Manning lead the BLM will be an incredible boon for Montana and our nation,” Montana Wilderness Association Executive Director Ben Gabriel said in an email on Wednesday. “She’s a straight shooter, with an impressive history of working on both sides of the aisle for the good of public lands, wildlife, water quality, and Montana’s rural communities.
“We are calling on Sen. (Steve) Daines to help ensure she receives a swift Senate confirmation so that she can get to work putting the BLM back together after four years of mismanagement and neglect.”
At Interior, Stone-Manning would join former Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks director and University of Montana law professor Martha Williams, whom Biden chose as deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Stone-Manning could not be reached for comment Wednesday.