Michael Merkley, the lead Forest Service investigator who worked the case of an eco-terrorist plot for the U.S.D.A. and served for over 28 years issued a letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, pushing back against President Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management, Tracey Stone-Manning.
Merkley said that he felt compelled to warn the Senate committee about the huge number of tree-spiking cases that were linked to Stone-Manning, and noted that many of the reports seem to be altered so as to appear “inaccurate or incomplete” and says that they mischaracterized her involvement as a mere “bystander or a victim.”
Merkley wrote about his personal history and knowledge of Stone-Manning, explaining that “Contrary to many stories… [she] was not an innocent bystander… most certainly was not a hero.” He ousted Stone-Manning as one of the leading members of ‘Earth First!’, an activist group that participated in many cases of eco-terrorism.
Merkley called out Stone-Manning as one of the “nastiest of the suspects” he dealt with in his career, adding that her behavior “was vulgar, antagonistic… extremely anti-government.” He explained that she was “very uncooperative” when demanded to offer fingerprints, hair samples and writing examples by a federal grand jury, and did not comply until she was threatened with arrest. Merkley also said that when she was forced to obey the court order, she did the absolute minimum and refused to answer any questions asked by Merkley.
Merkley explained that later on, Stone-Manning was revealed as having known everyone “who had perpetuated… crimes in the Clearwater National Forest,” and told of how she only gave in to offering up the names of her comrades after receiving an immunity deal, but “not before she was caught,” he remarked. Merkley says that this case proves her character, as she never came “forward of her own volition… never entirely forthcoming.”
Merkley ended the letter by explaining his reason for an early retirement from investigative work in 1997, because his work into crimes committed by Earth First! resulted in an alarming number of death threats from the terrorist organization, and a notice from them that they “solicited a contract to kill me… harm my family.” He says that he still lives under the shadow of that threat to this day.
The White House calls Stone-Manning “a dedicated public servant” who is “exceptionally qualified” for the position, but Republican lawmakers took serious note of Merkley’s testimony. Every Republican from the Senate Energy Committee put their signature on a letter demanding that Biden withdraw Stone-Manning’s nomination.
Author: Orville Walters