US National Butterfly Centre to be bulldozed to make way for Trump border wall with Mexico

‘This will have a devastating impact on both the environment and many, many species’

Harry Cockburn
Monday 10 December 2018 17:46 GMT
US military install barbed wire at Mexico border

Swathes of a 100-acre butterfly sanctuary along the Rio Grande in Texas are to be bulldozed to make way for Donald Trump’s US-Mexico border wall, putting endangered species at risk of extinction, experts have warned.

Marianna Wright, the sanctuary’s executive director, said 70 per cent of the land belonging to the centre will end up on the other side of the border wall.

The wall could be up to three-stories tall, with 18-foot steel beams rising from a concrete base. Construction through the refuge could start in February, according to the San-Antonio Express News.

The Trump administration is bypassing 28 federal laws, which exist mostly to protect the environment, in order to build the section of border wall through the Rio Grande Valley.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and two other organisations tried to take the government to court, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, thereby upholding a February ruling in favour of the government.

“The border wall and the border region is an area of tremendous biodiversity and wildlife,” Tony Eliseuson, a senior staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, told the Express News.

“It’s a very rich environmental area, and this border wall will have a devastating impact on both the environment and many, many species.”

Environmental activists have said the wall could lead to the extinction of endangered species such as the ocelot, contamination of drinking water and destruction of indigenous historical sites.

Every year hundreds of thousands of butterflies pass through the area where the planned wall will go.

“Just like farmers get crop yield in acres and inches, we get butterflies based on what we have planted in acres and inches,” Ms Wright said.

“So having a wide swath of our property bulldozed is going to negatively impact the volume of the species and diversity of the species.”

The centre has already taken the government to court after contract workers with chainsaws arrived unannounced on its property in July 2017.

Without the consent of the centre they began clearing out protected habitat where the border wall is planned.

“That is criminal. And unconstitutional,” Ms Wright said.

The 2,000-mile-long border between Mexico and the US currently has about 650 miles of extant border wall, but the natural barrier of the Rio Grande has so far been left without additional barriers.

The representative for Texas 34th congressional district, Filemon Vela, a Democrat, has managed to exclude the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge from the current wall budget.

But he said it was “devastating” the wall will cut through the butterfly centre, as well as the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and possibly dozens of family cemeteries.

"All those areas, with the 2018 funding that’s already been passed, are going to be horribly affected,” Mr Vela said.

“We’re on the verge of giving Trump his third down payment on his $25bn border wall,” he said.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts and we’re not getting any immigration relief in return.”

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