An individual convicted in a past ecoterrorist plot reiterated his claim that Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), knew in advance that she would have a role in his crime, according to a report published Monday.
The Daily Caller interviewed John P. Blount — the ecoterrorist convicted in a 1989 tree spiking crime — who told the outlet Stone-Manning knew ahead of time she would have a crucial role in his operation as she would deliver a necessary letter for him.
Blount’s remarks align with information he told E&E News in a report published weeks ago, but added this time that Stone-Manning lived in a one-bedroom and was in a relationship with John Lilburn, and that Lilburn told him Stone-Manning agreed to her role in the crime. Lilburn, however, rejected these claims in a statement to the Daily Caller.
Several newspaper reports from the time do, however, prove Lilburn and Stone-Manning were both members of the radical environmental group Earth First! in 1989, and that both were subpoenaed, along with five others, in connection to the tree spiking crime that year.
As for Stone-Manning’s role in the crime, the then-graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula mailed a profane letter to the U.S. Forest Service in 1989 at the request of Blount, alerting authorities that trees scheduled to be cut down in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest had been sabotaged with metal spikes to prevent them from being harvested.
Tree spiking is both a crime, and according to the FBI’s definition, an act of ecoterrorism that can damage or destroy expensive logging equipment and injure or kill loggers or millworkers processing the spiked trees.
After the Forest Service received the letter and the seven individuals — including Stone-Manning and Lilburn — were subpoenaed, a subsequent grand jury investigation could not uncover enough evidence to charge Blount with a crime. Three years later, Blount’s ex-wife reported him to authorities, and in doing so, named Stone-Manning as the person who delivered the letter. In exchange for immunity, Stone-Manning at that point decided to testify in a 1993 trial against Blount. He was later convicted of the crime and sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Blount told the Daily Caller that Lilburn said to him ahead of him spiking the trees, “I found someone to mail the letter.” Blount added, “And then, of course, Tracy was the name.”
Stone-Manning has repeatedly maintained her innocence in the ecoterrorist plot, saying she delivered the letter out of concern that someone would get hurt. According to the Missoulian, in 2013, she portrayed Blount as a “a rather disturbed man” who handed her the letter after the crime had happened and that she mailed it not knowing if the tree spiking had actually happened.
But, according to the Daily Caller, “Blount noted how foolish it would have been for him, from a criminal point of view, to find a stone-cold stranger to send the letter, which served a critical role in fulfilling the primary objectives of his criminal conspiracy.”
He also told the outlet that he and Stone-Manning were familiar with each other enough that they had kissed at a party one time and that he ate meals with Stone-Manning and Lilburn after the pair moved in together.
Blount’s claims about Stone-Manning come in conjunction with those of retired Forest Service criminal investigator Michael Merkley. Merkley, the special agent in charge of investigating the case in 1989, wrote an accusing letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about Stone-Manning in July charging that she “was not an innocent bystander” in the crime but instead helped in the planning process and allowed the crime to be carried out and remain unsolved for four years before coming forward in exchange for immunity.
Stone-Manning was also found to have edited an issue of an Earth First! journal in 1991 that outright mocked federal authorities for their inability to solve the tree spiking case.
Despite her lack of forthrightness surrounding the crime, and despite all Senate Republicans opposing Stone-Manning’s nomination in large part because of it, Senate Democrats appear poised to confirm her based on a procedural vote they all made in July to discharge her nomination from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Although the final vote was expected to happen last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been forced to delay it until after the Senate’s weeks-long recess amid pressure to pass the so-called infrastructure bill and crumbling support from organizations speaking out against Stone-Manning.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.