Commentary: Grit, character, outdoor experience needed at BLM

Tom France and his dog Britt.

In Montana, choosing a hunting partner is not to be taken lightly. It has to be someone who you can spend hours with, in trucks, boats and long hikes. Someone who will pitch wholeheartedly into the work that follows a successful hunt and are right along with you when things don’t go quite as planned. The choice of a hunting partner comes down to someone with skills, grit, and character you respect.

The same might be said for the leader of our largest public land agency, the Bureau of Land Management. Skill, grit and character. Tracy Stone-Manning is that leader. I’ve known Tracy for thirty years, both as hunting partner and as colleague working for public land policies that will benefit both people and wildlife. As a sportswoman and an advocate, Tracy will be an outstanding BLM Director and I strongly support her nomination to lead the agency.
Leading the BLM is one of the nation’s most important jobs. The agency oversees more than one-third of our public lands, including vast grasslands across the great plains and
intermountain West, beautiful rainforests along the west coast, and deserts and grasslands in the southwest. In Montana, the BLM manages over 8 million acres of land.
Tracy understands the great heritage of our public lands and their importance to fish and
wildlife, clean air and water, and as ecological treasures for future generations. She
understands that BLM lands are shared lands that are important to hunters and anglers, to loggers and ranchers, and to many other public land users and rural economies.
Tracy has worked for conservation organizations, state government agencies and for political leaders. Throughout her career, she has earned a stellar track record as a thought leader on collaborative conservation solutions. Throughout her professional career, she has brought people together to solve difficult challenges such as Superfund cleanup resulting from Montana’s mining heritage.
Montana is a state where folks don’t agree on everything, but they generally are on the same page when it comes to protecting our outdoor heritage for our economy and for future
generations. People across the spectrum — from ranchers to oil and gas producers to sportsmen and women — see Tracy Stone-Manning as a person they can work with. BLM’s “multiple-use” mandate requires exactly the type of collaborative approach that Stone-Manning has brought to her career.
Despite the crucial role the BLM plays in overseeing our nation’s public lands, it has been more than four years that the agency has gone without a Senate-confirmed director. There is important work needed and Tracy Stone-Manning is well-qualified to lead the agency in a direction that balances and honors the spirit of the BLM’s multiple use mandate.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee must swiftly advance her nomination and the full Senate should confirm her as quickly as possible. She’s got the mental toughness, know-how, experience and work ethic to make her both a great hunting partner and the next head of the Bureau of Land Management.
Tom France serves in the Montana House of Representatives and is an attorney and the former executive director of the Northern Rockies and Pacific Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation