updated 6/6/2013 3:16:31 PM ET 2013-06-06T19:16:31

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is dedicated to preserving natural spaces, but apparently "man caves" are not considered critical wildlife habitat.

That's why the agency dismantled the extensive man cave that private contractors had set up in a large EPA storage warehouse in suburban Landover, Md., northeast of Washington, D.C.

The contractor, Apex Logistics, was hired by the EPA in 2007 to manage the agency's 70,000-square-foot (6,503 square meters) warehouse.

But Apex is now barred from the site, because their employees had set up couches, big-screen TVs, refrigerators, gym equipment and other furnishings inside the storage facility, according to the government's business news daily Government Executive.

The contractors cleverly arranged partitions and stacked boxes to hide their secret man caves from security cameras, then decorated the walls with pinup calendars and photos.

Despite the cozy décor, "deplorable conditions existed at the warehouse; corrosion, vermin feces, mold and other problems were pervasive," according to the EPA report.

Scattered among the videos, magazines and radios were important documents containing sensitive personal information such as passports.

Since awarding Apex Logistics the warehouse maintenance contract six years ago, the EPA has paid the company about $5.3 million, primarily for labor costs, Government Executive reports.

It's a guy thing

Apparently, the primal urge to set up a man cave is irrepressible among some guys: In 2007, police arrested Michael Townsend, the leader of an artist's cooperative in Rhode Island, for surreptitiously constructing a man cave at Providence Place Mall.

Townsend was inspired to build the 750-square-foot (70 square m) space after hearing a radio ad featuring a woman exclaiming how great it would be to live at the mall, Fox News reports.

The man-cave phenomenon began in earnest in the 1990s after the publication of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" (HarperCollins, 1992), in which author John Gray describes the need some men feel for a private retreat, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Women come up to me and say: 'Thank you for explaining his cave. I always used to take it personally, and now I understand he just needs time in the cave and then he comes out,'" Gray told the Times.

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