The National Butterfly Reserve, a privately held conservation area dedicated to conserving butterflies and other native wildlife in southern Texas, was our next stop. If the wall is built the park will be cut in half, so we stopped in to see what all the fuss is about.
This is a small independently owned preserve. A large part of the current park is butterfly gardens where native plants are grown and propagated to encourage native butterflies in what has become a pretty limited landscape for them. Neighboring parks have been overrun with non-native grasses, and even the prickly pear is having a hard time competing with it. January is not the best time to visit, but it was the time we had. Most of the flowering plants were dormant and we actually saw more birds than butterflies here. We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and found a half day was a good amount of time to see the current park. They have plans for expansion into the other property that they own, but much of that is on hold until the wall issue is settled because those expansion areas are just south of the current park and will be on the south side of the wall.
This 30 foot tall tapestry meets visitors inside the facility. It is the only real mention of the wall within the facility, other than a small display near the entrance. Doerte is a US and German citizen, and her experience with the checkpoint Charlie crossing of the Berlin wall influences her art. Her woven wall represents the view that will be lost behind the border wall if it is built.
We visited the gardens, but actually spent more time towards the rear of the property where they have a wildlife feeding station. Because so much of the region is under construction (housing is being built to the north and prep work has begun on neighboring properties for the wall) it is an oasis of activity when food is distributed. It is hard to imagine the effect even closer construction will have on the animals who call this area home.
I spoke with Marcello, the person on duty at the desk, about the wall and it was clear that the more he talked about it the more upset he got. They are going to fight the wall going through their property, but they have limited resources. He is just hoping that enough people will hear about it and public pressure will halt the project.
Most people don’t understand the damage a wall will do here. Besides the area cleared for the wall and the access roads, large swaths will be kept clear for sight lines and much of it is also expected to be kept lit all night long affecting nocturnal species along the border. Marcello says it means a slow death for many species, including butterflies and birds, many of which will not fly 30 feet in the air to migrate or intermingle with animals on the other side.
The river means life to many of these animals, and can also mean death. Animals trapped North of the wall will not have access to the river during times of drought, and in times of flood, animals south of the wall will not be able to escape to higher ground. Just eight years ago, when several tropical storms hit the area, most of the area behind the proposed wall was under water.
He also mentioned that the reason they want a 30 foot wall is because if someone falls trying to get over it they will most likely be badly injured and unable to move, allowing agents to get to them before they can return to the cover of the brush. People are risking their lives to get away from dangerous situations and come to America in hope of a better life and we are doing everything in our power to make sure they die before they do.
Marcello also went on to talk about how there are many fewer people coming over now, but all of a sudden it is an emergency. The average apprehensions per month per agent 10 years ago was 26 and now that number has dropped to 2. It makes one wonder why it is a big emergency now!?