Butterfly Conservationists Lose Case Against Border Wall

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 15, 2019 3:30 PM

The Trump Administration claimed victory against opponents of the border wall -- butterflies.

In North American Butterfly Association v. Nielsen, a federal judge said there was "little refuge" for the plaintiff's claims in the case. The National Butterfly Center claimed the government violated its Fourth Amendment rights by entering the butterfly sanctuary without consent.

Compared to the president's emergency declaration to fund a wall along the U.S. Mexico-border, the decision attracted little attention. But it still made headlines even as the administration targeted $8 billion to put up the wall.

Butterfly Sanctuary

The butterfly center, located in South Texas, sued over a year ago. The center said plans for the wall would cut the 100-acre sanctuary in half.

As President Trump prepared to move forward this week, the plaintiff filed for a restraining order. Marianna Trevino Wright, director of the center, said the wall workers were causing "irreparable harm."

Wright said U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have cut off public access to a large part of the sanctuary. U.S. contractors have also entered the preserve without permission, she said.

However, Judge Richard Leon ruled against the center and dismissed the case.

Endangered Species

Leon said the government did not violate any constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment didn't even apply, he said.

"No factual allegations suggest that defendant entered or searched without consent any physical structures on the Center's property," he said.

The center is home to more than 100 butterfly species, including threatened or endangered species. The proposed wall will involve clearing vegetation that is part of their natural habitat.

The sanctuary is expected to appeal. The butterflies may just fly away.

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