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Pentagon spending millions to protect JBLM gophers while workers take pay cuts

There's plenty of outrage the Pentagon is spending $3.5 million to buy land to protect the Mazama Pocket Gopher near JBLM while 10,000 civilian workers face 20 percent pay cuts. (South Sound Prairies image)

With thousands of civilian workers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord facing painful furloughs because of federal budget cuts, you’d figure the government would look for any way to ease the pain and try to cut other areas. You’d be wrong, at least when it comes to protecting gophers.

Turns out the Defense Department recently gave JBLM a $3.5 million grant to buy land around the base to help protect the Mazama Pocket Gopher, Fox News reports.

“We’ve got a lot of people on furlough, we’re borrowing between 37 and 41 cents of every dollar these days. We’re still going to spend $3.5 million on the pocket gopher?” asks an incredulous KTTH host David Boze.

It could be justifiable if the gopher is endangered or at least threatened, but critics argue it’s pretty much a run-of-the-mill gopher.

“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, in an interview with Fox News. “I’m all for saving animals, but at what cost?”

At a cost of nearly $400 million, to be precise. The Department of Defense and other federal agencies have spent $397 million to protect 264,000 acres around bases since 2003.

Along with protecting the Mazama pocket gopher, environmentalists tell Fox News the purchase of 2,600 acres of prairie land around JBLM will also help protect Taylor’s 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,” said Jeffrey Foster, a civilian ecologist at JBLM who wrote the grant proposal.

The organization South Sound Prairies says pocket gophers are a state threatened species that “plays an important role in the ecology of our South Sound prairies.”

The group says the gophers’ tunnels help the soil and provide homes for other species to flourish, especially around JBLM.

“Where is Bill Murray when we need him? Caddyshack style,” Boze wonders. “That’s all I’m saying.”

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