The Rio Grande, which sits right at the border between Texas and Mexico, has at least 700 different types of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, plus 300 species of butterflies, and at least 18 threatened or endangered species. It's safe to say that it's a natural habitat that's overflowing with wildlife and an easy target for environmental protection. It's now become an easy political target for right-wing extremists.
The National Butterfly Center is a sanctuary where more than 200 butterfly species are found. It has also been in a legal battle since 2017 with the former Trump Administration and the anti-immigrant group We Build The Wall over their plans to build the infamous wall that would separate the U.S and Mexico. Senior leaders of We Build the Wall are now under federal investigation for pillaging millions of dollars for themselves while only routing an estimated 5% of their multi-million dollar budget on the actual wall-building.
The Center has said that building any portion of the wall would significantly damage the environment and potentially harm numerous endangered species. However, despite only small parts of the wall being built, more extensive damage remains. The Center became a target of harassment from right-wing extremists when We Build the Wall co-founder Brian Kolfage claimed the Center was being used for child trafficking. The planted conspiracy theory inspired extreme harassment of employees and Center financial donors to the point where they were forced to shut down to keep their employees safe from credible threats.
We appreciate y'all chipping in to help us r/n! You're helping to cover staff wages, while closed; hire professional security consultants & acquire essential equipment, training & assets to re-open w/measures in place should the nutjobs return to menace. http://PayPal.me/butterflies\u00a0pic.twitter.com/GadMErzTPe— National Butterfly (@National Butterfly) 1643980408
The North American Butterfly Association released a statement on Wednesday announcing that the Center's doors would be closed until authorities give the green light to safely re-open. They continued, "The safety of our staff and visitors is our primary concern," said Jeffrey Glassberg, NABA's president, and founder.
We regret to announce National Butterfly Center will be closed to the public for the immediate future. This difficult decision was made by the board of directors of the North American Butterfly Association, in the wake of recent events targeting the us. https://mailchi.mp/nationalbutterflycenter/v4jla7bmp9-5536765?e=73e95bd914\u00a0\u2026— National Butterfly (@National Butterfly) 1643816845
As conspiracy theories and disinformation runs rampant, accountability for the violence that's inspired by these politically motivated lies remains elusive.