A total of 650,000 civilian employees are now being furloughed at U.S. military bases in response to sequester cuts — but the Department of Defense is still spending millions to protect fuzzy critters.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington state just received a $3.5 million department grant to purchase land around the base in an effort to protect the Mazama pocket gopher, a species that has not even been listed as endangered or threatened.
The expense is not sitting well with furloughed workers.
“That really makes me mad that they would do that,” said Matt Hines, one of 10,000 civilian employees forced to take a 20 percent pay cut. “I’m all for saving animals, but at what cost?”
Under REPI (Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative), the Department of Defense and other federal agencies have spent $397 million to protect 264,000 acres around bases since 2003.
Sarah Hamman, from the Center for National Lands Management, has been tracking the Mazama pocket gopher in the prairie land around JBLM and says the military’s involvement has been critical.