Over at the Texas Observer, I teamed up with environmental reporter Delger Erdenesanaa to report on the National Butterfly Center, now reopened after being the site of right-wing conspiracy drama, and the state of butterflies in general in Texas and beyond:
More than 100 butterfly enthusiasts descended on the border city of Mission over Halloween weekend to celebrate the annual Texas Butterfly Festival. The event marked a comeback for its host, the National Butterfly Center, which has been threatened and harassed by right-wing extremists who believe (falsely) that the wildlife sanctuary is a human trafficking hotspot. The center closed from January to April over safety concerns.
“We reopened the National Butterfly Center on Earth Day, and this year it was honestly a big celebration,” recalled Marianna Treviño-Wright, director of the center.
Although festival enrollment was down slightly due to the pandemic and political controversy, Treviño-Wright was excited to share her love of butterflies with dozens of new initiates. Accompanied by 20 or so guides, they spent four days tracking the annual migration of monarchs and other species throughout South Texas.
Threats are fading as the conspiracy-minded look elsewhere, but for months they overshadowed the butterfly center’s conservation work at a time when it’s more important than ever. Many scientists believe the Earth is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. A recent report from the World Wildlife Fund revealed that across species, populations have declined by almost 70 percent since 1970. This loss of biodiversity includes butterflies.