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Senate Pressed BLM Nominee On Biden's Oil And Gas Lease Freeze

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The woman President Biden has chosen to lead much of his ambitious climate agenda on U.S. public lands appeared before the Senate today for her confirmation hearing. Montana environmentalist Tracy Stone-Manning has been tapped to be the next director of the Bureau of Land Management. It controls energy development and other activities on a tenth of all the land in the U.S. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: As Montana's former top environmental regulator and chief of staff for that state's former Democratic governor, Tracy Stone-Manning did develop a reputation for bipartisan deal-making, which she repeatedly referenced in her first appearance before the U.S. Senate.

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TRACY STONE-MANNING: I think that my career has shown that the only way to get things done in the country and specifically in the West is to work together.

SIEGLER: Stone-Manning's nomination marks a dramatic reversal from the agency's previous acting director, William Perry Pendley, who hailed from rural Wyoming and once suggested the U.S. government shouldn't even own public land. She's from a liberal pocket of Montana and more reflective of who's been gaining power and influence in much of the West lately - people from cities. New Mexico's Martin Heinrich is a senior Democrat on the committee. The Trump administration pulled Pendley's nomination before it could question him last year.

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MARTIN HEINRICH: The BLM has been without a confirmed director - for good reason, in some cases - for almost 4 1/2 years. That should not continue one day longer.

SIEGLER: Republicans, though, seized the opportunity to grill Stone-Manning about President Biden's freeze on new oil and gas leasing on public lands. They also argued her campaigning last year on behalf of Democrats was evidence she's a polarizing pick. She shot back, urging the committee to examine her entire career of brokering compromises, she said, on heated public lands battles.

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STONE-MANNING: Elections can be tough. I was supporting my former boss, Governor Bullock. But the election is over, and I will honor the outcome of that election.

SIEGLER: But the ranking Republican on the committee, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, said Stone-Manning's recent tweets reveal a bias against energy companies, ranchers and loggers.

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JOHN BARRASSO: Based on her record, I'm concerned that Ms. Stone-Manning does not fill the bill. Her career has been defined by her support for policies that restrict multiple-use activities on public lands.

SIEGLER: An up or down vote on Stone-Manning's nomination is expected in the coming days. It would then need to go before the full Senate.

Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DINING ROOMS' "YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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

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