A group of Native Americans on Monday protested as heavy equipment for President Trump’s border wall arrived at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, which the barrier is expected to plow through the center’s 100 acres of protected natural habitat for more than 60 varieties of butterflies, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Roughly 35 tribal members protested along a levee on the Rio Grande River, as construction equipment was off-loaded at the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the country.
Juan Mancias, the tribal chair of Carrizo Comecrudo who led the march, told the newspaper that he did not expect the construction to begin “this soon.”
“You come over here, you see the butterflies here, the animals here, and you also see gravesites that have been here since 1865,” Mancias said.
According to federal documents seen by the San Antonio Express, the border construction will reportedly feature a 150-foot-wide “enforcement zone” that could also destroy the gravesites of Mancias’ ancestors who were buried at a nearby cemetery in San Juan.
Native American protesters marched to the National Butterfly Center in South Texas this morning to protest border wall construction. The same activists have a protest camp set up at a nearby historic cemetery. Video: pic.twitter.com/wNFnYys2AF
— Gus Bova (@bova_gus) February 4, 2019
Mancias told the newspaper that he felt a kinship with the butterfly sanctuary and added they both are dedicated to “saving that which is native to Texas” in a way.
“We have an association with nature, we are a part of it,” he continued.
The Trump administration has reportedly waved nearly 30 environment laws to build a wall at the site
According to the National Butterfly Center’s GoFundMe page:
Congress funded 33 new miles of Border Wall in the 2018 omnibus Appropriations Act and contracts for the first 6 miles have been awarded to SLSCO . The real kicker is, the border wall is not being built on the border, but over 2 miles inland, moving the border of Mexico NORTH of the Rio Grande River (the actual border) and placing more than 6,000 acres of private property and public lands behind it in the newly created subdivision we’ve named MEXIGRO.
The issue is not whether butterflies can fly over a wall, but whether private property (farms, businesses, homes) should be seized and destroyed for a project that does not serve the greater good or enhance national security; rather, it pushes the boundaries of Mexico north of the Rio Grande and makes America smaller.
At the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, 70% of the land belonging to the nonprofit project of the North American Butterfly Center will be forfeited, to create a landing and staging area for illegal traffic on the shores of the United States.
In this land set aside for the protection of a remnant of native habitat, endangered species such as the ocelot, and the graves of Native American people who were present before the U.S. existed, everything will be desecrated, bulldozed and cut off from access by citizens and landowners; where gunboats could more easily be placed on the river to actually prevent traffic from setting foot on our soil.
Moreover, the federal government has waived 28 laws in order to expedite this.
“Environmental tourism contributes more than $450m to Hidalgo and Starr counties,” said the center’s director, Marianna Wright, referring to the adjacent counties in the valley. “Many of the properties people choose to visit to see birds, butterflies and threatened and endangered species are all going to be behind the border wall. For us, the economic impact is potentially catastrophic.”
“Walls have fragmented our habitat,” said Scott Nicol, co-chair of the Sierra Club Borderland team. The various patches of land that provide refuge for these animals will become “less viable, with less and less places for them to go.”
“This is not just that they will drive ocelots to extinction,” said Nicol, referring to the critically endangered wild cat found in the Rio Grande Valley. “Families trying to come into this country will be pushed into the desert to die.”
“Border walls are death sentences for wildlife and humans alike,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center, an organization that works to restore and protect native wildlife and habitats. “They block wild animals from accessing the food, water and mates they need to survive. They weaken genetic diversity, fragment habitat, and trap animals in deadly floods. At the same time, they drive desperate asylum seekers to risk their lives in the unforgiving desert.”