Environmental activists are worried a section of President Donald Trump’s planned border wall will block butterfly migrations and cut through one of the country’s “most treasured” birdwatching spots.
The Trump administration is preparing “another section that could block migrating butterflies and cut across the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most treasured spots for birdwatching in the country and a ‘crown jewel’ in the federal refuge system,” The Washington Post reported Monday.
That would put about 70 acres of the National Butterfly Center (NBC) south of the border wall, according to Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the North American Butterfly Association, which runs NBC in western Texas.
“Two-thirds of our property and a significant portion of America will wind up behind the border wall. About four percent of our native wildlife will be trapped behind the border wall,” Wright told WaPo.
Wright said she would take the fight against the border wall to Congress, joining the ranks of environmental and immigration activists pushing lawmakers not to fund the project.
Wright’s comments came two days after NBC founder Jeffrey Glassberg said he found “a group of workers with chainsaws began tearing through specially planted habitat on” the center’s land, according to the Texas Observer.
It’s privately owned, and Glassberg said the Department of Justice did not provide them any warning.
“There’s a procedure the government could follow with due process,” Glassberg said. “But they’ve decided — like with so much else — to just ignore the law, trampling on private property rights. The complete disrespect for the legalities of this country is something that ought to concern every American regardless of how they feel about a border wall.”
The news has emboldened environmentalists who have turned their attention to blocking Trump’s wall.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued a waiver to expedite U.S.-Mexico border wall construction, including exempting the project from federal environmental laws. Activists have already sued the Trump administration over the wall’s alleged impact on endangered species.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva filed suit in April, arguing DHS has to conduct an environmental review of the wall before they can begin building it.
CBD filed a second suit in June against DHS and the Department of the Interior, alleging the wall would hurt protected species. Activists said the wall could prevent endangered species like jaguars and ocelots from migrating across the border.
There’s a big problem, though. A 2005 federal law allows DHS to issue a waiver from federal environmental laws for border security projects, like a wall.
Aside from environmental exemptions, the Trump administration can also use eminent domain to seize land for the border wall.
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