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Law & the Courts

Judge Blocks Construction of Privately-Funded Border Wall to Protect Butterfly Sanctuary

A Monarch butterfly at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge (Tom Koerner/USFWS/Handout via Reuters)

A Texas state judge ordered a temporary halt to the construction of a privately-funded section of border wall on Wednesday, saying the construction would infringe on land owned by a butterfly sanctuary.

State District Judge Keno Vasquez of Hidalgo County granted a temporary restraining order against We Build the Wall to stop construction of the group’s wall on border land owned by the National Butterfly Center.

The 100-acre wild butterfly sanctuary sued We Build the Wall, calling “illegal” the construction, which started last month, and saying it found surveyor’s stakes and construction workers “with chainsaws and heavy equipment” in the private Rio Grande Valley region on July 20.

“The property and rights involved are unique and irreplaceable, so that it will be impossible to accurately measure, in monetary terms, the damages caused by the Defendants’ conduct,” Vasquez wrote in his decision.

The group denies it has received the restraining order.

“More fake news. We haven’t heard anything. We have not been served,” said We Build the Wall’s founder, triple amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage.

Vasquez also cited “hateful rhetoric” used by We Build the Wall as one of the reasons for the restraining order.

The group, which has also started construction on a segment of border wall in New Mexico, spearheaded the projects as a supplement to President Trump’s plan to build over 400 of miles of additional border wall.

In September, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the transfer of $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds to construct 175 miles of border wall, a move that comes several months after Trump declared a national emergency regarding the situation at the border, where thousands of migrants have crossed into the U.S. illegally in recent months. 

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