The Bureau of Land Management has an official head, for the first time since the Obama administration.
The U.S. Senate split on party lines in the 50-45 vote to confirm Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the bureau.
Both of Colorado’s senators, Democrats Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, voted yes.
Republicans opposed Stone-Manning’s nomination, arguing her work with environmental groups shows she wouldn’t support traditional energy development as part of the BLM’s multi-use mission. They also argued her involvement with a tree-spiking incident in the 1980s made her unfit to run a public lands agency.
Stone-Manning previously ran Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality and served as chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. More recently, she has helmed the National Wildlife Federation.
“In the face of our changing climate, we need a Senate-confirmed director who can rebuild the Bureau of Land Management into an agency that will restore and protect our public lands to sustain our economy in the West," said Sen. Bennet in a statement after the vote.
Republicans have label Stone-Manning an "eco-terrorist" for her connection to the tree-spiking incident. Kristi Burton Brown, the head of the Colorado GOP, called Bennet and Hickenlooper's support for her confirmation an "absolutely shameful vote" that "will be devastating for Colorado and the West."
The BLM has been without a confirmed director since the Obama administration. Former President Donald Trump tapped the department’s deputy director for policy, William Perry Pendley, last September, but pulled his nomination before the Senate could consider it.
When President Joe Biden nominated Stone-Manning to lead the BLM, more than 100 conservation and public lands groups sent a letter to Senate leaders urging her confirmation.
She will take the reins at a fraught moment for the bureau. The Trump administration’s decision to relocate BLM’s top Washington, D.C., staff to offices across the West — including shifting the headquarters to Grand Junction — led to a hollowing out at the bureau, with hundreds of staff choosing to quit or retire rather than make the move.
In mid-September, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the BLM’s national headquarters will be moving back to D.C., although she promised an expanded ‘Western headquarters’’ would remain in Grand Junction. In a statement after the vote, Sen. Hickenlooper said Stone-Manning would be a partner to Colorado in making the Grand Junction office a success.
The BLM manages 8.3 million acres of public land in Colorado, juggling often competing interests around conservation, recreation, energy development and grazing.
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