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Our public lands are one of our nation’s greatest assets and greatest equalizers, and that is particularly true of the acres stewarded by the nation’s largest public lands agency, the Bureau of Land Management. BLM lands help provide livelihoods for loggers, ranchers, workers in the energy sector and for thousands of small businesses that support the burgeoning outdoor recreation industry. They also provide essential habitat for wildlife, sporting opportunities for hunters and anglers, and adventure for hikers, bikers and backpackers. They are home to thousands of sacred sites. 

At the same time, these lands are under threat like never before, from drought, wildfire, invasive species and other impacts from climate change. That is why it is so crucial to have someone at the helm of that agency who knows how to build relationships with a diverse array of folks, approaches challenges seeking collaborative solutions, and has the vision and experience to restore our public lands. 

A hunter and consensus builder

Fortunately, President Joe Biden has nominated someone to lead the agency who is exceptionally qualified in every way. Tracy Stone-Manning is precisely the leader the BLM needs to address the serious challenges our lands face and seize the opportunities that await. We know Tracy’s strengths perhaps better than anyone else, because she has worked for each of us directly. 

We can unequivocally say that the incendiary language used by some senators to describe Tracy and her limited role in an incident from over 30 years ago is a complete distortion of who she is as a person and her record of collaborative conservation leadership over the past three decades. Tracy is many things – a hunter and outdoorswoman, a public servant and consensus builder, a bipartisan advocate – but she is not the caricature portrayed over the past several weeks.

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On a personal level, Tracy has become a trusted friend to each of us. She has been in our homes, sharing meals where we celebrate our children’s achievements or swap stories about hunting or backpacking adventures, and we’ve spent countless hours together on the road. Tracy is whip smart, funny, compassionate, and her love of the West is palpable.

Tracy Stone-Manning, nominated to direct the Bureau of Land Management, at her confirmation hearing on June 8, 2021.

On a professional level, we know Tracy is the right person to lead the agency that is responsible for more than 245 million acres of our public land. She excels at bringing people together to solve difficult problems. Her career is built on that approach, starting with her work as executive director of the Clark Fork Coalition, where she marshaled forces with Republicans and Democrats in Montana to successfully remove the Milltown Dam, clean up the river, expand recreation and create thousands of jobs for local communities.

She continued bridging divides as a Senate staffer when she brought mill owners, recreationists and wilderness advocates together to develop a plan to safeguard local timber jobs, protect wilderness, and create areas for snowmobiling and mountain biking. During that work, she built genuine partnerships where people truly cared about each other and each other’s successes.

Then-Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announcing his presidential campaign on May 14, 2019, in Helena.

She did the same thing as Montana’s director of environmental quality and then the chief of staff in the governor’s office, when she helped pass a Native American water rights settlement in Montana. It had been a hot, contested issue, but what helped make it successful was Tracy’s quiet efforts to build trust among lawmakers and negotiators so that the work could flourish.  

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She doesn’t shy away from tough conversations and understands that showing up to listen first is what matters, like she did with the residents in Colstrip who were frightened about what new federal regulations about reducing coal emissions would mean for their livelihoods. Her goal then and now is to ensure the West could lead the way through the clean energy transition, continue to provide power for the country and create good jobs that will keep towns like Colstrip vibrant.

In her work at the National Wildlife Federation, she has led bipartisan campaigns to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to restore degraded grasslands and wetlands, and to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells. This work includes working on priorities championed by lawmakers across the ideological spectrum, including Republican Sen. Steve Daines.

Science, data and common sense guide her

In every endeavor, Tracy’s goal is the same: Work with local communities, ensure that all stakeholders are heard, and develop strong relationships so that the difficult work of land management can be done. She is a deft leader who lets science, data and uncommon common sense drive her decision-making, as anyone who has worked with her can attest.

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After 4 1/2 years without a Senate-confirmed leader, the BLM is in dire need of steady, skillful leadership. Tracy is that person, who will keep an eye on the future as she guides the agency today.

It is unfortunate to see partisan attempts to erase three decades of exemplary collaborative conservation leadership by relentlessly attacking someone whom the two of us know to be such a good person and such a dedicated public servant. 

We ask the Senate to swiftly vote to confirm Tracy so she can get about the important business of stewarding our cherished public lands.

Steve Bullock (@GovernorBullock) is a former governor of Montana. Collin O’Mara (@Collin_OMara) is the CEO and president of the National Wildlife Federation.