Butterfly sanctuary expected to be plowed over for border wall construction

Photo: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson / CC BY 3.0

By: CBS News
December 7, 2018

MISSION, Texas -- A protected habitat of butterflies along the Rio Grande is expected to be plowed over to clear the way for President Trump's border wall after the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed a challenge by environmental groups. The justices this week upheld a District Court ruling to allow the Trump administration to bypass 28 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, to be waived for southern border wall construction.

Three organizations, led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, had sued the government, claiming construction of the wall would harm plants, wildlife and other species such as fairy shrimp and the Quino checkerspot butterfly.

Hundreds of thousands of butterflies housed at the nonprofit National Butterfly Center will be in jeopardy after about 70 percent of the center's land winds up on the other side of the border wall, according to Marianna Wright, the executive director of the center.

"We do not know exactly how much of (the land) we will retain access to and how much of it will be left intact," Wright told the San Antonio Express News.

The center's 100-acre sanctuary near Mission, Texas, is home to at least 200 species of butterfly, and serves as critical habitat for the migration of the threatened Monarch butterfly and endangered species including the ocelot and jaguarundi, The Intercept reports.

Border Patrol agents told her construction at the center is expected to begin in February, she said.

Mr. Trump has made the border wall a centerpiece of his immigration policies. The president has threatened a government shutdown unless lawmakers provide $5 billion in funding.

Illegal immigration was a central theme of his 2016 presidential bid and he repeatedly invoked the issue ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, deploying 5,800 U.S. troops to the border as a caravan of migrants from Central American made their way toward the United States.

"We have a president who purports to be all about law and order, and he and the Supreme Court are now supporting the waiver of all laws that get in the way of his agenda," Wright said. "That should be an affront to all Americans."