In a lawsuit filed Monday against the federal government, the National Butterfly Center accuses the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies of trampling on the center’s private property rights and violating the Endangered Species and the National Environmental Policy Act over the construction of a border wall through the center.
The lawsuit comes after the center’s executive director, Marianna Treviño-Wright, found a crew of five men from the Alaska-based Tikigaq Construction LLC firm with machinery cutting trees, mowing brush and widening a private road that runs through the property. The crew told her they were on orders from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clear land for the border wall. Treviño-Wright ran the men off her property, she said.
According to the lawsuit, the center is home to over 100 species of butterflies and also houses several endangered animals and plants. If the wall is built through the center, the wall would cut off two-thirds of the center’s 100 acres, effectively destroying the Center and leaving behind “a 70-acre no-man’s land between the proposed border wall and the Rio Grande.”
“Less than five percent of our native habitat remains in Texas for our native wildlife,” Treviño-Wright said in July. “Birds, butterflies and other animals are looking for natural landmarks as guides when they travel, not unnatural ones that obstruct their movement. Construction will desiccate them.”
The center seeks restitution for its legal fees and says in the lawsuit that the DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol and the CBP Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector violate the Endangered Species and Environmental Policy Acts by not consulting with agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or taking steps to conserve threatened and endangered species.
Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association – which owns the center – says the actions of the federal government should concern all Americans.
“The activities that are taking place will have extremely bad effects on the Butterfly Center,” Glassberg said. “If things go as the federal government say it will go, that could create a situation where the butterfly center closes and all the $7 million put into it will go down the drain and all the incredible plants and animals there disappear. That’s why we’re filing this lawsuit seeking injunctive relief.”
The lawsuit was filed two months after the House Homeland Security Committee approved a border security bill that includes $10 billion for a border wall.
The Border Security for America Act, proposed by committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), includes the $10 billion in border wall funding, $5 billion to improve ports of entry and adds 5,000 agents to both the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.
The bill has advanced to the House but is unlikely to pass the Senate where it would need a 60-vote majority vote, according to the political website The Hill.
None of the agencies listed in the lawsuit have responded to the lawsuit, Glassberg said. Attempts to reach out to those agencies for comments were unresponsive as of press time.