President Joe Biden intends to appoint National Wildlife Federation senior adviser and veteran Montana Democrat Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Office of Land Management, the US newsroom confirmed on Wednesday. States someone familiar with the process.
Stone-Manning joined the NWF as associate vice president for public lands in 2017 and was promoted to senior advisor for conservation policy in January. She had worked as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, after heading the state’s Department of Environmental Quality under Bullock’s administration. She also served as an aide to Sen. Jon Tester, (D-Mont.), from 2006 to 2012.
Politico Pro first reported the nomination, prompting backlash from conservation groups and Democrats who hailed the move.
“This would be a big deal for Montana and for all Americans who value our public lands and the thousands of well-paying jobs that depend on their responsible stewardship,” Tester said in a statement.
Stone-Manning “understands the complex issues facing the Department, and I know that if appointed, she would bring Montana common sense to the land management decisions that will allow our economy to thrive.”
“Having Tracy Stone Manning lead the BLM will be an incredible boon to Montana and our nation,” Ben Gabriel, executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association, said in a statement. “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 rural Montana communities.”
Gabriel also called on the other U.S. senator from Montana, Republican Steve Daines, to support confirmation. BLM is part of the Home Office.
A spokeswoman for Daines, who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that would review Stone-Manning’s confirmation, did not return a message seeking comment.
Representatives for the NWF declined to comment on Wednesday.
250 million acres of public land
The BLM could be a key venue for advancing conservation and climate policy, a priority Biden has declared for years would be a central part of his presidency.
The office manages nearly 250 million acres of public land, nearly all of it in the West, including nearly 50 million acres in Nevada, or about two-thirds of the state’s land.
It is also responsible for approving oil and gas leases on federal lands. Biden suspended new leases shortly after taking office, while ordering a review of federal leasing policy. Emissions from oil and gas development on federal lands account for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, according to the US Geological Survey.
If confirmed, Stone-Manning would face unusual challenges for a new BLM leader.
The BLM did not have a confirmed director during former President Donald Trump’s tenure. William Perry Pendley, a deputy director who previously worked as an anti-government legal activist, was the de facto leader but lacked the support in the Senate, even from some Republicans, to seek confirmation for the full-time post.
A federal judge in Montana overturned some decisions made by the BLM during Pendley’s tenure because he was serving illegitimately.
The Trump administration also oversaw the move of the BLM headquarters from Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado. The move was criticized by many Democrats and conservationists who saw it as weakening the bureau’s influence in Washington and expected it to drive many of the agency’s career experts.
In his NWF post, Stone-Manning criticized Pendley’s record and said the BLM should have a director who believes in the office’s multipurpose mission. Stone-Manning supporters said she was well-placed to help the office reverse the direction Pendley had taken.
Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement that Pendley was a “buffer” for the oil and gas industry and said she expected Stone-Manning to consider a wider range of interests.
“The damage done by the Trump administration to an agency that manages one-tenth the land area of the United States is almost incalculable,” Rokala said. “Stone-Manning’s depth of expertise and breadth of knowledge will be key assets in reforming the Office of Land Management and restoring confidence in our public land managers.”
More Interior Nominees
The White House and Interior also officially announced four other nominees on Wednesday. They are:
- Energy and environmental lawyer Tommy Beaudreau will serve as undersecretary of the interior. Beaudreau served as chief of staff to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and headed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees federal offshore wind policy, during the administration of former President Barack Obama. He is a partner in the Washington office of the international law firm Latham & Watkins.
- Environmental activist and executive Shannon Estenoz will serve as assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. Estenoz, a fifth-generation Floridian, was most recently the chief operating officer of the Everglades Foundation. She previously oversaw the Obama administration’s Everglades restoration work.
- Winnie Stachelberg, head of the think tank, will serve as assistant secretary for policy, management and budget. Stachelberg is executive vice president of external affairs at the Center for American Progress.
- Water advocate Tanya Trujillo will serve as assistant secretary for water and science. Trujillo recently worked as a project director with the Colorado River Sustainability Campaign.
“Our nominees each have deep experience leading energy and environmental issues, working in federal, state, local and tribal governments, and coordinating engagement with a variety of stakeholders,” the Secretary said. Interior Deb Haaland in a statement.
“I look forward to working with them to advance the Interior’s mission to steward America’s natural, cultural and historic resources and to honor our nation-to-nation relationship with the tribes.”