A Missoulian has been tapped for the top position at the Bureau of Land Management.

On Wednesday morning, the Biden administration confirmed that it would nominate Tracy Stone-Manning to take over as director of the BLM. She would serve under recently confirmed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Stone-Manning is currently the Associate Vice President for Public Lands at the National Wildlife Federation and was a chief of staff for former Gov. Steve Bullock and director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

If confirmed by the Senate, Stone-Manning will take over a department that saw detrimental change during the Trump administration. Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt hired William Perry Pendley to head the BLM, but Pendley was never confirmed during the year and a half he was “acting” director.

After Steve Bullock and the Montana Department of Natural Resources Conservation sued the BLM and the Department of the Interior on July 20, 2020, Great Falls federal court judge Brian Morris ruled in September that Pendley was running the BLM illegally.

But during his time, Pendley instituted several changes including moving the BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo. The move created a brain drain for the department because a majority of the headquarters staff left rather than make the move.

Pendley, a Colorado resident, was also president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a property-rights group that regularly the Department of the Interior on behalf of extractive industry companies. Montanans first heard of Pendley during the Blackfoot Nation’s struggle to close down a few decades-old oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, an area on the Rocky Mountain Front adjacent to the Blackfoot Reservation and Glacier National Park. Pendley was the lead counsel for Solonex, a Louisiana oil company that is suing the U.S. government for the right to drill in the Badger-Two Medicine.

On Wednesday, Sen. Jon Tester praised Stone-Manning, who also served as one of Tester’s senior aids.

“Tracy Stone-Manning is imminently qualified to take the helm at the Bureau of Land Management at such a critical time for the agency. She understands the complex issues facing the Department, and I know if nominated, she’d bring Montana commonsense to land management decisions that will keep our economy thriving,” Tester said in a statement.

Conservation groups that continually fought the BLM under Pendley celebrated the news.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities, said the BLM, which manages one-tenth of U.S. land, deserves a stronger, legitimate leader.

“Stone-Manning’s depth of expertise and breadth of knowledge will be critical assets in reforming the Bureau of Land Management and restoring trust in our public land managers. By listening to a broad range of stakeholders, instead of just the drilling and mining industries, Stone-Manning can restore a sense of balance in our public land management,” Rokala said in a statement.

Ben Gabriel, Montana Wilderness Association executive director, called on Sen. Steve Daines to confirm a Montanan as the BLM director.

“Having Tracy Stone Manning lead the BLM will be an incredible boon for Montana and our nation. She's a straight shooter, with an impressive history of working on both sides of the aisle for the good of public lands, wildlife, water quality, and Montana’s rural communities,” Gabriel said in a statement.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com.