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Senate confirms Biden's pick for Bureau of Land Management


The country's next chief of U.S. public lands is Montana environmental leader Tracy Stone-Manning. The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed her to be the next director of the Bureau of Land Management after a bitter nomination debate. The agency controls who gets to do what on roughly a tenth of all the land in the U.S., everything from oil and gas drilling and wind farms to wildfire prevention. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Tracy Stone-Manning is most recently a policy adviser at the National Wildlife Federation. That capped two decades working mostly in the public sector as an aide to Democrats and as Montana's top environmental regulator. She developed a reputation as a bipartisan dealmaker on contentious public lands battles. But Senate Republicans have instead focused on her brief involvement with the radical Earth First! movement while a grad student at the University of Montana in the 1980s.


JOHN BARRASSO: She is the wrong choice for this job.

SIEGLER: Republicans like Wyoming Senator John Barrasso on the Senate floor yesterday again called Stone-Manning an eco-terrorist collaborator. They say she'll lack credibility leading the sprawling agency. The bureau hasn't had a Senate-confirmed director since the Obama administration.


BARRASSO: Tracy Stone-Manning is a dangerous choice to be put in charge of America's public lands. And each and every senator who votes to confirm her will be held personally responsible for that vote.


JON TESTER: Damn right. Hold me accountable for Tracy Stone-Manning.

SIEGLER: Montana Democrat Jon Tester, who Stone-Manning once worked for, he has said because the bureau only had an acting director under President Trump, Senate Democrats never got to question him about once calling for selling off U.S. public lands and his sympathies for ranchers who led armed rebellions against federal land managers.


TESTER: I've worked with her. I know what she does. I know she can get the job done. She can bring people together of all political ilks.

SIEGLER: Stone-Manning has kept a low profile since her nomination last spring, but particularly women in the conservation movement like Kathy Hadley have rallied to her defense.

KATHY HADLEY: She's got a record - a 30-year record of being a great public servant. So why go after her so hard? And, you know, the main distinguishing characteristic is she's a woman.

SIEGLER: Stone-Manning will be only the second woman to permanently lead the lands agency since it was established in 1946. Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOMAK'S "FORCE FOR TRUTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kirk Siegler
As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.