Rep. Holt backs Oregon anti-government protesters

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee lawmaker is voicing support for the cause of armed anti-government protesters who took over a remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Republican state Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden took to Twitter on Monday to ask the protesters where he could send support for their effort. Holt later deleted the tweet but went on to debate the matter in subsequent posts.

Holt said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that although he doesn’t agree with the protesters’ tactics, he supports the goal of getting the federal government to turn over public land to the Western states. The lawmaker said he also opposes the prison sentences of two ranchers who set fire to federal land.

“They’ve drawn attention to something that I’ve been trying to draw attention to for years, which is the fact that we have a tyrannical federal bureaucracy on multiple levels,” Holt said.

“This is a protest of an onerous, tyrannical federal government,” he said. “Is it a great idea to take over a federal building? I wouldn’t have done it. But I’m going to lend them my moral support.”

Holt said he worked for a ranch in Wyoming for parts of three years between high school and college, where he said he had run-ins with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Holt last year sponsored a resolution urging the federal government to transfer all public lands to the states. The measure passed the state House on a 65-25 vote but never reached a full vote in the Senate.

Holt has faced his own legal fight with the federal government over allegations of environmental violations at his northwestern Tennessee hog farm.

The Environmental Protection Agency last year announced it was seeking up to $177,500 in fines against Holt for discharging a total of more than 860,000 gallons of waste water from lagoons on the farm without the proper permits.

Holt said Monday that the EPA case is “soon to be settled,” but that he couldn’t yet comment further on the specifics.

“This is just another example of how the intrusive and tyrannical power of the federal government can make or break people,” he said.

Update/Note: Jeff Woods’ ridicule of Holt includes links to others doing so nationally.