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Allee writes: "National Butterfly Center employees are watching in horror as their 100-acre butterfly sanctuary in Mission, Texas, faces immediate seizure by the federal government for the erection of Trump's 'beautiful' border wall."

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in Southwest Texas. (photo: JNB Photography/Shutterstock)
Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in Southwest Texas. (photo: JNB Photography/Shutterstock)

Crushing Blow to Butterflies as Border Wall Construction Starts at Sanctuary

By Jessica Allee, Reader Supported News

06 February 19

Wildlife habitat officials are told that their property is now government land, even though they’ve received no compensation or eminent domain hearing.

ational Butterfly Center employees are watching in horror as their 100-acre butterfly sanctuary in Mission, Texas, faces immediate seizure by the federal government for the erection of Trump’s “beautiful” border wall. Located in the Rio Grande Valley, at the southernmost tip of Texas, the center sits near the eastern limits of the US/Mexico border. It is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, including numerous endangered and threatened animals and insects that rest and mate there, some on migratory paths, others in their native habitat. It is also the location of 33 miles of proposed wall that federal authorities are taking control of, roughly 200,000 acres on the north shore of the river. Among these properties are privately-owned and publicly-owned lands, such as Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. They all have one thing in common: federal disinterest in public welfare.

While Congress approved approximately 1.1 billion in funds for the project in March 2018 via the omnibus bill, the Trump administration has acted illegally in taking the land. The government hasn’t held an eminent domain hearing for the sanctuary; rather, it has plowed forward, more interested in expressing political might than stewardship. In addition to illegal seizure, the feds are bypassing 28 federal laws, most of which are environmental, to materialize this project of dominance.

The center is working on legal action to stop the seizure and has set up a fundraising page to cover costs. However, according to the center’s Facebook page, construction begins on Thursday, February 6th. And, in keeping with poor communication from the government, equipment showed up a day earlier than they were told by Customs and Border Protection to expect it. This past Sunday, a massive earth mover and eight law enforcement units were first spotted next to the wildlife habitat. That is when the center was notified by a Mission Police Department officer that as of Monday they would “have NO ACCESS to [their] own land south of the levee” and that it is effectively government land. The Trump administration will essentially carve a militarized zone through a major portion of the privately-owned land, practically cutting off 70 acres from the wildlife habitat, or 70% of their property.

While the first signs of this seizure had popped up in July with the appearance of survey stakes, there was no basic information provided to the center until mid-December, leaving the habitat caretakers out in the cold wondering what would become of the oasis. “They have been completely uncommunicative, and generally they have obfuscated or straight-up lied,” Marianna Treviño-Wright, the director of the National Butterfly Center, told the Texas Observer. When details were finally relayed of the plan to transform the sanctuary into a heavily barricaded “enforcement zone,” they learned that a 150-ft corridor along the wall will be razed of plant life for border patrol access. They most recently learned of the lighting.

Imagine for a moment oneself as a visitor, looking across a pristine wildlife habitat at a 36-foot-high wall built of concrete and steel, raised up on an earthen levee and crowned with a series of industrial lights that constantly flood the night sky. How is this a habitat for anything? It certainly isn’t for the native Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, who only flies about six feet high and has no hope of overcoming the wall to get to the river. It is not alone, as other birds and insects, including butterflies, will be blocked from routine movement despite their ability to fly.

The center has explained some of the devastation this separation wall will bring for a variety of wildlife:

5) Nocturnal and crepuscular wildlife, which rely on sunset and sunrise cues to regulate vital activity, will be negatively affected by night time flood lighting of the “control zone” [also called the “enforcement zone”] the DHS CBP will establish along the wall and new secondary drag roads. The expansion of these areas to vehicular traffic will increase wildlife roadkill.

6) Animals trapped north of the wall will face similar competition for resources, cut off from native habitat in the conservation corridor and from water in the Rio Grande River and adjacent resacas. HUMANS, here, will also be cut off from our only source of fresh water, in this irrigated desert.

Tribal members including those from the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe marched along the levee on Tuesday, walking on the path where the wall will soon exist. They sang songs in the Lakota language that spoke of the sacredness of everything. “We have an association with nature, we are a part of it,” Carrizo/Comecrudo tribal chair Juan Macias says. Sadly, he may lose the gravesites of his ancestors who are buried at the Eli Jackson Cemetery and in the planned “enforcement zone” of the wall. “You come over here, you see the butterflies here, the animals here, and you also see gravesites that have been here since 1865.”

Whether the condition of illegal seizure, the threat to wildlife habitat, or the desecration of graves gets one’s gall more on this issue can be put on hold, because there is one more aspected impacted in this crisis. Tourism. The National Butterfly Center is a non-profit organization that is dependent on funding from visitor’s dollars, 30,000 visitors a year, to be specific.

When a place of beauty and refuge is reduced to 30% of its size and framed by a structure that is not only ugly but symbolizes control and ethnocentricity, it ceases to draw interest. “The more we create the look of a war zone, the more unpleasant it becomes,” says Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association.

If all of these injustices don’t break the spirit of the site and its inhabitants, it is very likely that the subsequent damage dealt by reduced revenue will crush the sanctuary’s future.

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Jessica Allee is a staff editor for Reader Supported News as well as an editor for Red Wedge Magazine.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+55 # USADUDE 2019-02-06 18:52
+49 # Lolanne 2019-02-06 19:10
He's not going to get his damn wall, so this appears to be yet another 2-yr-old's tantrum, just like the shutdown was. He lacks any awareness of anyone but himself, and that self has a streak a mile wide of meanness and cruelty and lack of any concern for anybody's welfare but his own. But if you file suit against him, won't any action on his part be stayed by a judge's order until the legal action is resolved? I always thought that's what happened when a suit is filed, and I sure hope that's right and that you do file suit!
+49 # suzyskier 2019-02-06 19:22
Trump is a force of evil! He cares not a wit for a single living creature on this planet except for egomaniacal self!
+46 # madams12 2019-02-06 19:45
short sighted, stupid & pointless....ex cept for the butterflies...w ho are already nearing extinction. shameful.
+37 # randrjwr 2019-02-06 20:48
No due process here. Take the land, destroy anything in your way, screw the Native Americans and the wildlife; laws you don't like are made to be ignored. Just one more example of Trump being a dictator. We are doomed.
+12 # BetaTheta 2019-02-06 22:19
We need to assure that HE is doomed.
+7 # randrjwr 2019-02-07 19:53
Quoting BetaTheta:
We need to assure that HE is doomed.

And Pence and McConnell. Where do I sign up?
+14 # littlebird 2019-02-07 02:21
If we fight, we not not doomed. We are still a democracy, but we have to make sure we keep it.
+17 # DongiC 2019-02-07 02:03
Trump is bad for butterflies, the neighborhood, and endangered species. He is so obsessed with that God damn wall that he has lost all reason and balance. With our environment in trouble, we have elected to the presidency a stupid and selfish man. Surely, a formula for national suicide. Perhaps, we should wear black hats bearing the letters MASA; making America stupid again.
+13 # littlebird 2019-02-07 02:18
The more I hear about our dictator president's plans, the more frustrated and angry I become. We can stop him! We must stop him! There are legal ways of filing suit, maybe a federal judge can disallow the take over of this beautiful and special place. Don't give up or give in. Even though I usually do not donate money for political causes, this is one cause that I will gladly support. It is shameful that we have to protect ourselves from a president who is running over everyone with a giant bulldozer to satisfy is hunger for power. It is time to stand up and say "NO". Trump is a bully, a tyrant, and seems more like a mafia Godfather than someone who is supposed to represent and lead.I am disgusted with those in his party, who are letting him run rampart. Do they have so much loyalty to him that they are willing to see our country torn apart by his behavior? Where are our representatives ? Will they take up the cause of what the people of the United States want?

I dare Fox news to show what is going on at the border. What would happen to public opinion when news crews show up to film the actual news and reveal the truth?
+3 # DongiC 2019-02-08 03:41
Fox News, like Trump, is the tool of the evil one. Don't expect it to be on the side of Angels. But, come April 19 (Good Friday) at Chimayo, NM, another force for good will appear. It is a coming out party, so to speak with Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Phanuel as an honor guard. The deserts of the Southwest will soon be in full bloom, materially and, indeed, spiritually. Peace!
+15 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-02-07 08:16
Trump Kills Butterflies: yet one more nauseating crime.
+10 # elizabethblock 2019-02-07 21:14
Yes, butterflies can fly. But the Butterfly Center people won't have access to the land on the other side of the wall, which means they can't plant the kinds of flowers the butterflies need, and they can't remove the invasive species that, left alone, will crowd out those flowers.
And of course mammals can't fly.
0 # randrjwr 2019-02-09 17:41
Quoting elizabethblock:
Yes, butterflies can fly. But the Butterfly Center people won't have access to the land on the other side of the wall, which means they can't plant the kinds of flowers the butterflies need, and they can't remove the invasive species that, left alone, will crowd out those flowers.
And of course mammals can't fly.

Except for bats, of course.
+11 # ywsf 2019-02-08 16:26
I am so sick of hating Trump. I am not a hater but daily he so infuriates me I can't help it. I hope he burns on a spit in hell.
-2 # 2019-02-10 17:59
I have a few questions for the author.
What affect does hundreds if not thousands of people walking (drug smugglers, human coyotes and their clients) through, sleeping in, defecating, urinating and carrying non organic items, plastics/chemic al have on this preserve? How many motor vehicles are used to travel across pristine land in the process of smuggling meth, pot, cocaine, and fetanyl. How many thousands of habitat are compromised by same people? If anyone has witnessed the extreme ecological damage to the California forests and national parks from the cartels black market pot growing operations that person would realize that failure to address these issues could result in more far reaching and permanent damage to habitat then the wall.
0 # SusanT136 2019-02-12 12:25
Most drug smugglers go through ports of entry or through tunnels under existing walls. Fentanyl mostly comes through the mail - from CHINA. Most of the people trying to cross the Mexico border are coming to apply for asylum and turn themselves in at ports of entry (BTW applying for asylum is not illegal). Stop watching Fox news and listening to Trump and you’ll immediately be better educated.

The issue in CA re: illegal pot growers is not even remotely similar. And - news flash - growers are trying to go legal there to cash in on the medical marijuana boom.

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