The nonprofit, located on the Texas Border, has been the target of right-wing conspiracy theorists. Photo courtesy of the National Butterfly Center.
Feb. 2, 2022
The National Butterfly Center on the Texas border is closed for the immediate future for safety reasons.
"The safety of our staff and visitors is our primary concern," states Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg, president and founder of the North American Butterfly Association. "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 closed over the weekend while a We Stand America event was taking place in neighboring McAllen.
Over the last several years, the National Butterfly Center has found itself in the middle of the border wall controversy after filing two separate lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security and the We Build the Wall nonprofit.
Marianna Wright, the executive director of the National Butterfly Center, said she has since been defamed in social media. Baseless posts allege the center is engaged in illicit activity, including sex trafficking.
According to the San Antonio Express, the conspiracy fueled threats escalated in recent days.
This Goodson's Greenstreak butterfly was one of the record number of species observed at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas on Jan. 1, 2022. Photo by Cecil Wingfield. Courtesy of the National Butterfly Center.
Green Source DFW spoke with Marianna Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly, recently for a story on butterflies and climate change.
The center embroiled in the controversy is a popular tourist destination in the Rio Grande Valley. It hosts more than 35,000 unique visitors and over 6,000 school children each year. and is home to the annual Texas Butterfly Festival, which draws participants from around the world.
Wright said the Rio Grande Valley typically has more butterflies, in volume and variety, than any other place in the United States. That’s because they have 11 biologically distinct ecosystems in a small four county region. Plus, they’re on the northern edge of the Neo Tropics.
The Center is home to 240 species of butterflies and almost 300 species of birds, along with endangered plants and protected wildlife species that are being displaced by land development, commercial agriculture, climate change and border wall construction.
According to the Columbia College Alumni publication, Wright, who grew up in McAllen and has duel U.S.-Mexican citizenship, calls herself “the butterfly that roared.”
“We have a motto at the National Butterfly Center — ‘If we can save the butterflies, we can save ourselves’ — and it’s really that simple,” she told the publication.
The daughter of a Hispanic father, she advocates for engaging Hispanic visitors in environmental conservation education and climate change activism.
“For people of color, the outdoors is traditionally associated with danger and fear,” Wright says. “There’s a stigma associated with enjoying the outdoors. That’s something we need to change.”
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