Military Spends Millions on Species that Isn't Endangered Amidst Furlough

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Although 650,000 civilian employees are being furloughed at military bases due to sequester cuts, the Department of Defense is spending millions on an animal that isn't even endangered.

A $3.5 million grant was given to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state to purchase land around the base that will protect the Mazama pocket gopher. 

While most are happy that they are making an effort to protect animals, furloughed workers are less than thrilled.

"That really makes me mad that they would do that," Matt Hines, one of 10,000 employees who was forced to take a 20 percent pay cut. "I'm all for saving animals, but at what cost?"

Since 2003, the department has spent $397 million to protect 264,000 acres around bases.

Purchasing the 2,600 acres around the base will not only help the gophers, but will also protect checkerspot butterflies and streaked horned larks.

"Although our primary mission is fighting wars and military training, like other federal agencies, we have a requirement to support the recovery of listed species," Jeffrey Foster, a civilian ecologist at JBLM, said. 

But Glen Morgan, of the Freedom Foundation, said the pocket gophers are not distinct from gophers that thrive in the Midwest. He also said they survive remarkably well outside of JBLM.

"It shows our government is out of control and our priorities are completely out of whack," Morgan said. "And they're skewed in a strange way that has no benefit for people who live here or even the animals they claim they're trying to protect."

A spokesman for the Department of Defense said the program is a small amount of money and also has the added benefit of providing a buffer around bases to lessen conflicts with people who live nearby. 

Col. Charles Hodges said he would not comment on the gopher spending, but did express regret for the furlough.

"It's frustrating after all the sacrifices these folks have made that we're asking them to sacrifice more," he said. 

Hines, whose family is sacrificing $1,300 a month in pay, said the government just doesn't understand the severity of the situation.

"I think when this is all said and done, some people are going to lose their houses. They're going to be in financial ruin and I just don't think the government really, really understands that," he said.

Sources: Fox