In a bow to environmentalists, as the military furloughs 650,000 civilian employees, it’s spending millions to protect small animals, including burrowing rodents homeowners everywhere consider a pest.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., is purchasing land surrounding the base, using funds from a $3.5 million grant to protect the Mazama pocket gopher, according to Fox News.
In case you’re wondering, the Mazama pocket gopher is not an endangered species. It’s just a common rodent. In fact, Bill Murray spent 98 minutes trying to destroy the invasive critters in the 1980 comedy “Caddyshack.”
“That really makes me mad that they would do that,” said Matt Hines, one of the military’s furloughed civilian employees. “I’m all for saving animals, but at what cost?”
Hines is among about 10,000 civilian employees who will see a 20 percent cut in pay as part of the furlough.
The effort to save the rodent isn’t a creature of the Obama administration. It’s been going on for some time. Since 2003, the federal government has spent $397 million to protect 264,000 acres around bases as part of the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative.
The base’s commander, Col. Charles Hodges, declined to comment on the gopher spending, but expressed disappointment over the furlough.
“It’s frustrating after all the sacrifices these folks have made that we’re asking them to sacrifice more,” he told Fox News.
Area property owners are up in arms over the government’s land grab and are starting to organize. According to Fox:
Glen Morgan, of the Freedom Foundation based in Olympia, Wash., has represented landowners who have been fighting what he calls the government takeover of private land. He said the Mazama pocket gopher is not distinct from gophers that are thriving throughout the Midwest and indeed survive remarkably well even on the JBLM artillery ranges.
“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.”
The total impact on the Hines family — his wife and son are also government civilian employees — will mean a $1,300-per-month loss in income.
“I think when this is all said and done, some people are going to lose their houses,” Hines said. “They’re going to be in financial ruin, and I just don’t think the government really, really understands that.”
The program isn’t unique to Washington. On the opposite corner of the United States, Florida’s Elgin Air Force Base received $1.75 million to protect tortoise habitat.
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