Border wall at National Butterfly Center violates property rights and worse

If I ever pulled up to our Llano River ranch road to find a work crew, heavy machinery, pink flagged survey stakes, and trees slashed to the ground, I’d likely grab my husband’s shotgun.

Marianna Wright, Director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas –courtesy photo

But Marianna Treviño Wright, director of the National Butterfly Center, has more self-control than me. She peacefully, but forcefully, ordered five contractors off the 100-acre private property owned by the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas along the U.S. Mexico border. Then she took to the media.

Wright told local reporters that the National Butterfly Center received no notices or requests for access to the property–even though “no trespassing” signs were prominently displayed. According to a story in the local Mission, Texas paper, the crew wielded chainsaws, two mechanized brush cutters and other pieces of heavy machinery. They told her they were on assignment from the Tikigaq Construction LLC firm in Point Hope, Alaska. Their job: mark a 150-foot clearance for President Trump’s border wall.

X marks the spot where contractors planned to dig core samples for a future levee at the National Butterfly Center. Courtesy photo

“Just about every type of wildlife is here,” Wright told Progressive Times reporter Jose de Leon III. “This habitat is rich and diverse….What will happen to them if the wall is built here?”

Next door to Wright at the 2,000+ acre Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, planning for Trump’s border wall has been underway for months. According to a July 14 story by Melissa del Bosque in the Texas Observer,  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have been meeting quietly with private contractors to plot out the first piece of Trump’s border wall here for half a year. Plans call for 28 miles of a new levee wall system in the Rio Grande Valley and 32 new miles of border wall system here. An 18-foot levee wall will stretch for almost three miles right through the Santa Ana wildlife refuge. Construction could begin at Santa Ana as early as January 2018, a federal official who asked to remain anonymous told the Observer.

The stretch of South Texas destined to host Trump’s border wall includes at least three wildlife areas. Photo via National Butterfly Center

Designated by the federal government in 1943 as a sanctuary for migratory birds and managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Santa Ana straddles the Rio Grande and is considered one of the most diverse ecosystems left in the United States. Along with the NBC and the Bentson State Park, the natural areas collectively provide habitat for the endangered ocelot, the jaguarundi, coyotes, bobcats, armadillos and 400 species of birds. See video below.

Known as one of the top birding destinations in the world, Santa Ana is being sacrificed precisely because of its federally protected status. Since the U.S. government owns it, they won’t be subjected to pesky lawsuits from private landowners like Marianna Wright and the National Butterfly Center. As another story in the Texas Observer noted in June, a third or more of 320 condemnation suits filed against private landowners to build a wall in 2007 are still unresolved.

In contrast, the National Butterfly Center (NBC) is a project of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), a privately funded, nonprofit organization. Like its Santa Ana neighbor, NBC is devoted to the conservation of wildlife–specifically wild butterflies in their native habitats. NBC features a native species garden, offers walking trails, observation areas, educational exhibits and a plant nursery.

In a four-and-a-half minute video posted on on July 22,  Wright describes the flagrant disregard for the rule of law exercised by the work crews.
“They flat-out  ignored the private property sign and began work clearing trees along our road and the Rio Grande River,” she says in the video, as the South Texas breeze blows across the microphone.


           “this is not just about the butterflies….”

–Legal Defense Fund to Stop Trump’s Border Wall started by National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas


“You may have heard about what’s happening with the Trump border wall and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge,” says Wright, her voice rising as she refers to her government-employed neighbors. “Well those people can’t talk to you. But we can. And I’m gonna show you what’s about to be lost. And how the government is operating.”

She chronicles the violations and encourages contributions to a legal fund set up to fight it. The campaign specifically states “This is not just about the butterflies.” The federal government “will do as it pleases with our property, swiftly and secretly, in spite of our property rights and right to due process under the law,” states the campaign.

She describes the future loss of habitat that will result when “thousands of acres, 38 miles of river between Bentsen State Park and Santa Ana Wildlife will be cleared for this border wall that people climb over.  A border wall that already exists in places….It’s barely a deterrent.”

Canopy Walk, feels like the jungle at Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge
Canopy Walk, feels like the jungle at Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge

Calling the border wall a waste of taxpayer dollars and an environmental disaster, she concludes what those of us who live in South Texas know well: border walls don’t stop illegal immigrants. We’ve had one, with gaps and gates, for years.

According to the American Immigration Council, approximately 650 miles of border fence already exists as of early 2017. We have 350 miles of primary pedestrian fencing, 300 miles of vehicle fencing, 36 miles of secondary fencing behind the primary fencing, and 14 miles of tertiary pedestrian fencing behind the secondary fence. These barriers run the gamut from tall metal and concrete posts to solid corrugated steel walls, metal fencing, and combinations thereof. Then there’s the surveillance tools–towers, cameras, motion detectors, thermal sensors, stadium lighting, ground sensors, drones. This montage of deterrents comprises the existing infrastructure aimed to stop the unauthorized entry of people, drugs, and arms into the United States.

But as former Department of Homeland Security Secretary under Obama Jeh Johnson said in a November 2016 speech: “We can spend billions of dollars to build a 10-foot wall on top of a 10,000-foot mountain. But if you’ve come all the way from Central America, it’s not going to stop you.”

Last weekend, as Wright posted her video, dozens, perhaps hundreds of illegal immigrants who tunneled, hiked, swam or waded across our border were discovered packed in an unairconditioned semi truck in a San Antonio Wal-Mart parking lot. The temperature climbed to 104 degrees here on Saturday, and was likely higher on hot asphalt.

Police officers gather around the tractor-trailer and tow truck outside of Walmart where ten people died last weekend. Photo courtesy Bonnie Arbittier, Rivard Report

When a Wal-Mart employee noticed people streaming from the back of the truck, he rushed over to provide assistance and dialed 911. Several people were already dead; more than 20 were sent to local hospitals with extreme dehydration, asphyxiation and other health issues. By Monday 10 people had perished.
Wright is right: It’s NOT just about the butterflies. Nor is it just about property rights. It’s about much much more than that.
Find the National Butterfly Center’s Stop Trump’s Border Wall Legal Defense Fund campaign here.
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20 Responses

  1. gemma
    | Reply

    The fundraiser says it’s over, now what?

  2. […] Border wall at National Butterfly Center violates property rights and worse […]

  3. Jean McLane
    | Reply

    My Texas Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (15th district) has spoken out against plans to build the wall through the Santa Anna Wildlife Reserve. I will ask him to also protect the National Butterfly Center.

  4. Wolfgang Kraus
    | Reply

    The Berlin wall which was built to keep people from leaving East Germany did not stop people from trying to leave, even through it had guard towers with guards & machine guns shooting people. After we finish building the southern wall are we going to build a wall along our beaches to stop swimmers & boats & people on rafts from getting here. 90 miles of water between Cuba & Florida does not keep Cubans from getting to the U.S.A. or drugs from coming in on the waters of Florida or the east coast. After that will we need to build a wall along our northern border? The a
    wall is a waste of money that would be better spent to help fight crime in this country & crime in the countries of our southern friends.

  5. Rebecca Stapleton
    | Reply

    The number of illegals crossing into the US has actually dropped in numbers. This is without a Wall. The President and his Thugs have no right to destroy our beautiful Preserves and protected places! His idea of being in nature is a day on one of his golf courses! This makes me beyond angry!

  6. Arley Hulstrand
    | Reply

    I am a Republican, but I absolutely do not want a wall built that eliminates the ability of animals to move or migrate as their ancestory demands. And I certainly do not want land ownership divided because of a solid wall. At the same time this country has the right to protect its borders from those entering illegally. I would like to see more support given to the border control agency.

    • Diane
      | Reply

      This enormous problem with the illegals cannot be controlled with more Agents. It is impossible to “police” every stretch of land on America’s border. This is a problem with only one solution and that is a huge barrier wall, period. You cannot stop people unfortunately without stopping wildlife as well.

  7. Sue
    | Reply

    Surveyors do not need permission to come onto private property. The property in question has most likely been survey from satellite. The survey markers in question are most Likely there for satellite to communicate with. The holes being drilled are for core samples. And while Henry Penny runs about with the sky is falling. A Truck with ninty people in it, human trafficking, was found in San Antonio with nine people dead and many others hospitalized. Rescue from an eighteen wheeler truck bed with no air and outside temperatures over a hundred and two. So let us all worry about butterflies and our property rights

    • Monika Maeckle
      | Reply

      Perhaps you should read the article before commenting. –MM

      • inga dearing
        | Reply

        I dont think that people dont see the whole picture. Drugs are being made in the USA Meth and the latest of the Grey Death does not come from any other Country but the US. The USA is included in the 10 highest in the world of crime. The USA has illegal immigrants from all over the world To trespass property is against the law and punishable by law and that should be the same for those we select as a president.The USA is against child labor but yet items are purchased from countries that employs child labor. A wall is insane and not realistic . That is a proven fact when you look at Europa and finally the walls came down. How is america going to be great again when the government breaks all the Laws ?

  8. Doug
    | Reply

    Build the wal

  9. Diane
    | Reply

    I fully understand the desire and need to protect the nature sanctuary property but without a wall, what would you suggest? How many miles of the Butterfly Ranch would seriously be affected?
    The U.S. has had an invasion problem of these illegal people of enormous proportions. Our nation has been inundated with these illegals and the citizens who pay taxes are being raped and pillaged by these hordes whether thru crime or them sucking up government benefits and services.
    A 25′ wall in Israel and other nations definitely works as a major deterrent and it is unable to be scaled. Protecting a few gates for auto access is 100% better than trying to protect hundreds of miles of border land. When they no longer can just run across and into our nation to disperse out into the vast U.S. landscape, they WILL stop coming. They will keep trying but it will be only thru the gates access.

    • Aatanner
      | Reply

      That’s not true, msny of them cone here for jobs so they can send money to their families, not to join gangs. Many pay taxes and create jobs for others. We don’t need a border wall, we need a reformed immigration system. It takes years just to get a work visa. It takes years and thousands of dollars per person, which these impoverished families couldn’t possibly save up in their own country, to even attempt to become US citizens. If this process wasn’t impossible for them, they would be able to come here legally. The border wall is a quick, and ineffective, fix.

  10. Craig
    | Reply

    WOW Monika !! That was fair and balanced. You’re exactly right, it’s about a lot more than butterflies. You and I both know this article has nothing to do with butterflies. Property rights ; a little bit ( eminent domain comes into play here ). there is, however, a procedure that needs to be followed before contractors come on private property. As the owner of a small acreage next to Balcones Canyonlands, I surely don’t want unauthorized anybody on my native Texas property bothering me and/or the wildlife. Without looking it up, I would imagine there’s some kind of government easement on the U S side of the Rio Grande that allows for authorized individuals on the property in question here? The NABA may have been fortunate people that have visited the park haven’t come in contact with desperate and dangerous people entering the U S illegally. By the way, I’m an advocate of making Mexico a “legal protectorate” as Hawaii and Alaska were. With the Mexicans blessing, I would like to see the U S place more troops in Mexico to assist law enforcement and the Mexican military break up and drive the cartels underground. Once Mexico meets certain economic levels and other criteria , I would like to see Mexico become the next six states. Unmitigated corruption is all that’s keeping the Mexican people from flourishing economically. The American people could learn a lot from the Mexicans when it comes to good family values and morality. Besides, I want the. American monarchs to be able to cross the border “legally” someday. 🤓

  11. Elaine K
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this information, Monika. I am beside myself. I have shared the article as well as the video created by Marianna. What else can I do as a concerned citizen? I, too, would have clicked the “anger” button!

  12. Ken Rivard
    | Reply

    You need an “anger button” for commentary on this post, Monika. This is outrageous. Unfortunately not everyone is savvy or resourceful as Marianna Wright. Thuggish behavior on the part of the contractor.

  13. scribe
    | Reply

    Absolutely not. American sovereignty is of utmost concern.

    • Joanne Coleman
      | Reply

      He will do this to all of the land, just have them roll in and start destroying what’s already there. That’s his mode of operation, doesn’t think he has to ask permission from anyone for anything! Time to teach him a big lesson!!

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