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A butterfly conservatory is shutting down due to right-wing harassment

The entrance to the National Butterfly Center on Jan. 15, 2019, in Mission, Texas.
Suzanne Cordeiro
AFP via Getty Images
The entrance to the National Butterfly Center on Jan. 15, 2019, in Mission, Texas.

The butterflies will fly no more — or not in public view, anyway.

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, has announced that it's closing its doors "for the immediate future" after ongoing harassment directed at employees and the center itself.

The center, a nonprofit nature reserve nestled near the U.S.-Mexico border, unwittingly became the subject of conservative conspiracy theories and political conflict in recent years, having been locked in a years-long legal battle with the Trump administration and We Build the Wall regarding a planned border wall.

The harassment grew so great that it led the board of directors of the North American Butterfly Association, which owns and operates the butterfly center, to decide on Tuesday to close the center's doors, according to a statement released Wednesday.

"The safety of our staff and visitors is our primary concern," Jeffrey Glassberg, the NABA's president and founder, said in the news release. "We look forward to reopening, soon, when the authorities and professionals who are helping us navigate this situation give us the green light."

Though it is unclear when or if the center will reopen, employees will continue to be paid in the interim, according to Wednesday's release.

The National Butterfly Center filed a lawsuit in 2017 after the Trump administration allegedly began construction of a wall, using chainsaws to destroy trees and other plant life, on center-owned property without permission. The 100-acre property is home to lush gardens and endangered plant life, as well as numerous nature trails that are the natural habitats of the more than 200 species of butterflies that live there.

If efforts to build a border wall on the center's property were to continue, it would greatly damage the environment and potentially harm numerous endangered species, the center has said. It would also essentially leave the center's property divided, NPR previously reported.

The center's closure announcement comes on the heels of a previous three-day shutdown Jan. 28 to 30 due to safety concerns. In a public statement, the center cited "credible threats" it was made aware of in relation to We Stand America, a right-wing rally set to be happening that same weekend in McAllen, Texas.

"We still cannot believe we are at the center of this maelstrom of malevolence rising in the United States," the center said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young
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