Butterfly Sanctuary That Stood Up to Trump’s Border Wall Closes After Right-Wing Threats

The entrance to the National Butterfly Center
The entrance to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP via Getty Images

The National Butterfly Center in Texas that stood up to former President Donald Trump’s border wall is now shuttering indefinitely because of harassment from right-wing conspiracy theorists. 

The 100-acre nature preserve in Mission, Texas has been in an ongoing legal battle with the former Trump administration and non-profit We Build a Wall in order to prevent wall construction on its doorstep, as HuffPost reported. Because of this, it has been targeted by right-wing groups that have falsely accused the center of being involved in human trafficking.

“The safety of our staff and visitors is our primary concern,” North American Butterfly Association president and founder Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg said in a statement announcing the closure. “We look forward to reopening, soon, when the authorities and professionals who are helping us navigate this situation give us the green light.” 

The center’s current plight began in 2017, when it sued the Trump administration over its proposed border wall, according to HuffPost. The center argued that wall construction would destroy habitat for birds and butterflies and cut off migration routes for low-flying species. It also said that the Trump administration began cutting down trees on center property without permission, according to NPR. If the wall were completed, it would divide the property and threaten endangered species

The center later sued We Build the Wall, a nonprofit that supports border wall construction, saying it had defamed the center, leading to “targeted harassment,” according to HuffPost. 

This harrassment already prompted the center to shut down from January 28 to January 30 of this year because of “credible threats” connected to the Pro-Trump We Stand America event that weekend, as the center said in an earlier statement. 

Before the event, Virginia congressional candidate Kimberly Lowe attempted to film the Rio Grande to find proof of illegal border crossings, as My RGV News reported. She attempted to access the river via a private road on National Butterfly Center property. When center executive director Marianna Treviño Wright asked her to leave, an altercation took place during which Lowe allegedly assaulted Treviño Wright. Lowe denied Treviño Wright’s account, but video and audio recordings support the latter’s version of events.

The center said that Lowe also attempted to run over Treviño Wright’s son when leaving the property. Treviño Wright was then advised by a former state official to be either out of town or armed for the duration of the We Stand America event, prompting the center’s decision to close. 

“We still cannot believe we are at the center of this maelstrom of malevolence rising in the United States,” the center wrote in its statement. 

Most center employees are hourly workers, and they were paid both during the three-day closure and now during the indefinite closure. 

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may cause to members and visitors, many of whom plan trips months in advance, to experience this truly exceptional place,” Treviño Wright said in the most recent statement. 

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