October 21, 2016

America’s Hometown Dedicates Nature Preserve For Both People And Bats in Missouri

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Today Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and City of Hannibal Mayor James Hark joined other federal, state and local officials, residents and private partners to celebrate the completion of an extraordinary effort to conserve and create a nationally important Indiana bat habitat area and community park in the historic hometown of Mark Twain.

Bean announced that Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has proclaimed October 24 through October 31 as National Bat Week, highlighting the ecological and economic importance of bats in controlling insect pests and as pollinators. Secretary Jewell asks the American public to join her in recognizing the importance of bats, the threats they face, including white-nose syndrome, and the stewardship role the Department plays in providing valuable habitat for bats, research and recovery actions throughout the nation.

A dedication ceremony and “BatFest” celebration were held at the Sodalis Nature Preserve, which features popular recreational trails and hibernating habitat for an estimated 168,000 federally endangered Indiana bats—approximately one-third of all the Indiana bats in the world—in the former mines beneath the preserve.

“Bats are incredibly important to our environment and to our economy. They are the primary predator of night-flying insects, playing an integral ecological role and saving billions of dollars in agricultural pest control every year,” Bean said. “They’re also in trouble from threats like white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed millions of bats, including Indiana bats, across the United States. Sodalis Nature Preserve—the largest hibernation site in the world for Indiana bats—represents a milestone in conservation, not just here in Missouri, but across the 22-state range of the Indiana bat.”

“Hannibal residents have embraced the new park,” said Mayor James Hark. “Every day, there are children, senior citizens, dogs, strollers, scooters and bicycles on the trail, using it for exercise and education. Our school is using Sodalis Nature Preserve to teach our youngsters about bats and the importance of conservation. Our citizens have adopted the preserve, making sure it is safe and clean. Our tourists have discovered there is more to Hannibal than Mark Twain. The whole endeavor has been a win-win situation for the city of Hannibal.”

The 185-acre Sodalis Nature Preserve was acquired by the City of Hannibal earlier this year. The purchase of the property and its management was funded through the Flanagan South Pipeline Mitigation Fund provided by Enbridge Pipelines (FSP), L.L.C., which was negotiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support mitigation for impacts to endangered species and migratory birds resulting from construction of the pipeline. The Conservation Fund worked with the City to negotiate the purchase, facilitated the demolition of derelict mining structures and secured the mine entrances on the property with gates that allow bats to enter and exit the mine and keep people out.

“The abandoned limestone mine held little promise until recently. Now it has become a place of pride in the community and a site of national significance for endangered wildlife conservation,” said Clint Miller, Midwest Project Director at The Conservation Fund. “We are truly honored to partner with the City and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the protection of this one-of-a-kind nature preserve, where Mark Twain as a youth brought home bats in his pockets from the, ‘…great caves, three miles below Hannibal…,’ to frighten and amuse his mother.”

“Enbridge is proud to be a part of such an amazing and historic project that is certain to have lasting impacts for many generations to come,” said Mike Moeller, Senior Director, Enbridge Energy Mid Continent Region. “Conservation and protection of the Indiana bat aligns with Enbridge’s philosophy of environmental stewardship, and our desire to care for the land, air and water that matters to everyone.”

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation holds a conservation easement, which restricts residential and commercial development, ensuring the property—and the bats—will be protected forever. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working closely with the City, will monitor and manage the bat populations on the property, prioritize research needs and provide guidance on habitat management for long-term conservation of bat populations. Funds have been set aside for management of the property and the future replacement and repair of the bat gates.

“Prior to the discovery of this significant population of Indiana bats hibernating in the former limestone mine, it was presumed that all Indiana bats hibernating in Missouri were located south of the Missouri River,” said Biologist Shauna Marquardt with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The discovery of the bats at Sodalis Nature Preserve and the Service’s research over the last few years have changed what was understood and assumed about Indiana bats throughout the bats’ range. This new information led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider the preservation of Sodalis Nature Preserve one of the highest priorities for bat conservation in the Midwest.”

Five other bat species are known to use the property, including the federally endangered gray bat and federally threatened northern long-eared bat. The permanent protection of important bat hibernacula is also essential to the conservation and recovery of species affected by white-nose syndrome, one of the greatest threats to hibernating bats in North America.

The Sodalis Nature Preserve is the second largest park in the City of Hannibal. It will serve as a hands-on laboratory for students to study bats and other wildlife and plants. The park is named for the Indiana bat, whose scientific name is Myotis sodalis. Myotis means “mouse ear,” and sodalis means “companion,” referring to the social nature of Indiana bats, which cluster together during hibernation.

High resolution images are available here: https://conservationfund.sharefile.com/d-s00c1ba186f94663a

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service is the primary federal agency responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act. Working with the City of Hannibal and other partners, the Service will prioritize research needs and provide guidance on habitat management for long-term conservation of bat populations, and will work with the City of Hannibal to provide interpretive information about bats to park visitors. www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/mammals/inba/inbafctsht.html

About the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation works with private landowners and public agencies to protect scenic areas, wildlife habitat and open space. Through the use of conservation easements, which restrict incompatible uses that could damage a site’s conservation value in order to protect the natural quality of the property, the Foundation has helped protect more than 150,000 acres including 17,000 acres through conservation easements. www.inhf.org

Media Contact:
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Mary Lynne Richards | City of Hannibal | 573-221-0177 Ext. 212 | mlrichards@hannibal-mo.gov
Georgia Parham | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service | 812-334-4261 x 1203 | georgia_parham@fws.gov
Shannon Gustafson | Enbridge | 715- 817-5322 | shannon.gustafson@enbridge.com