President Donald Trump’s “impenetrable” border wall threatens the National Butterfly Center and the Rio Grande Valley
Director of the National Butterfly Center Marianna Treviño-Wright says she found workers clearing and cutting down trees on July 20
Concerns grow that the wall will disturb already-imperil animal migration at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge
Mayor of Mission, Texas Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas claims the wall will not disturb the National Butterfly Center
US Army Corps of Engineers confirm work has began near the center of the wall
After months of debate, it appears we are beginning to see the first stages of President Donald Trump’s border wall along the border of Mexico. Concerns over the environmental damage from the wall are growing in the Rio Grande Valley.
On July 20, Jeffrey Glassberg discovered the Trump administration’s plans to put a wall through the National Butterfly Center. Glassberg and his wife founded the 100-acre sanctuary dedicated to protecting the Monarch Butterfly and other threatened species.
Glassberg’s wife passed away on the same day of the discovery, making the plans to put a border wall through the butterfly center that much more devastating. Glassberg and his wife dedicated their lives to the center.
National Butterfly Center
Marianna Treviño-Wright, Director of the National Butterfly Center, told the Observer she was “startled” when she found the crew cutting down trees with a chainsaw and clearing vegetation with a mower along a bisecting road of the property that runs along a flood-control levee.
Not only was there no notification that workers would be on their private property, when Treviño-Wright spoke to the crew’s supervisor she learned that they had no permits to be on the center’s property. The crew left, and the supervisor told Wright that the US Customs and Border Protection would be in contact with her.
Along with not having the proper permits to be on the center’s private property, the Trump administration appears to have neglected all standard protocol in the situation. Glassberg never received anything in writing from the Department of Justice, as required by law. It also appears that the Trump administration has not been communicating with the CBP.
US Customs and Border Patrol
After the crew workers had left the area, Wright contacted their Border Patrol Liaison. The last time a border wall was built was when the Bush administration passed the Secure Fence Act in 2006. The Bush administration assigned Border Patrol sectors, which were in charge of communications with landowners. Wright said this time that is not the case.
On July 21, five Border Patrol agents showed up at the center saying that Wright’s claims could not possibly be true. Wright then took the agents across the levee road to show them the heavy machinery left behind and the area that had been cleared the day before. Wright said the agents were shocked and appeared to not have any idea what was going on.
Rio Grande Valley
On August 1, chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector Manuel Padilla made an unannounced stop at the center. Padilla told Wright that his main priority was to start construction of the wall in neighboring Starr County, but the Trump administration chose Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge first due to the land being owned by the government.
If the wall goes through as planned, Wright told The Observer that, “70 percent of their property will be the river and wall and that it will cut off the visitor center from the rest of the sanctuary.”
Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge
The National Butterfly Center is not the only area where concerns are looming due to the Trump administration’s border wall. In the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge the wall threatens the migration of already jeopardized species. Not only will the wall itself hurt the migration of animals, but so will the lights, people, and other additional infrastructure that comes along with it.
Across the border, you will find the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which will also face the negative environmental consequences of the Trump administration’s “impenetrable” wall.
Two refuges south of San Diego may be the first to feel the impact of the wall. The Trump Administration has said they plan to waive environmental and other laws to speed up construction of border wall prototypes, 14 miles of replacement walls, roads, lighting and other infrastructure, according to the San Diego Tribune.
Mayor of Mission, Texas, Norberto “Beto” Salinas, denies that the National Butterfly Center will be disturbed at all by the construction of the wall.
Salinas told The Monitor that in a meeting with Padilla he was assured that a fence would not be built on top of the levee, which he plans on opposing. Instead, there will be a cement wall on the south side of the levee.
City Manager Martin Garza stated that there are no solid plans on where the wall/levee will be located, as right now it is in the “preliminary” stage.
US Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Jim Frisinger confirmed that work has begun near the center of the wall, but at this time it was mainly surveying. Frisinger said their contractor had not performed any clearing or tree cutting in the area, which directly conflicts with Wright’s story of what occurred on July 20.
The events follow the US House of Representatives approving an appropriations bill which allows $1.6 billion to go towards 60 miles of new border wall in the Rio Grande Valley. The funding awaits the approval of the Senate, which returns from recess in September.