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Senate Republicans Criticize Biden's Nominee To Head Bureau Of Land Management

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Senate Republicans are pressuring President Biden to withdraw his nominee to be the country's next U.S. public lands chief. Democrat Tracy Stone-Manning is Montana's former top environmental regulator. Her confirmation is expected to go before a Senate committee for an initial vote this week. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: The president's nominee to lead the Federal Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning, has a reputation here in the West as a moderate and bipartisan dealmaker on contentious public lands battles. Republicans today, though, are focused on a narrow slice of her past - in the 1980s, as a grad student in Missoula, at the height of the so-called Timber Wars over rampant clear-cut logging. Back then, Stone-Manning sent a letter on behalf of Earth First!, warning the government that trees at a planned federal timber sale had been sabotaged, putting loggers' lives in danger. Here's Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan speaking on the Senate floor.

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DAN SULLIVAN: Tree-spiking - these were the kind of tactics that Tracy Stone-Manning once conspired in. Does that disturb you, America?

SIEGLER: Wyoming Republican John Barrasso, who's on the committee that is expected to initially vote on her nomination, says she collaborated with ecoterrorists.

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JOHN BARRASSO: It is my belief that she is clearly disqualified to be the director of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages almost 65 million acres of federal forests.

SIEGLER: But Stone-Manning later testified against the tree-spikers in federal court, saying she sent the letter because she didn't want anyone to get hurt. She's not currently giving interviews, but her supporters are rallying on her behalf, saying these GOP objections came up long before in Montana and were put to rest. Montana Senator Jon Tester, who Stone-Manning once worked for, also sits on the committee.

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JON TESTER: And I think the crap - and I mean it is crap - that they're sending around on her is just character assassination.

SIEGLER: Democrats are accusing Republicans of false equivalence. They mostly sat silent over President Trump's bureau nominee, who once sympathized with ranchers leading armed standoffs against federal agents. William Perry Pendley had also called for selling off U.S. public lands.

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TESTER: But look; I mean, you can take a look at some of the noms that went through for President Trump. They're not after competency; they're just after to rip people apart.

SIEGLER: Stone-Manning's nomination is expected to squeak through the Senate. One unknown, though, remains committee member Joe Manchin, who has not yet said whether he'll vote to confirm.

Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Boise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.