At the southern border of Hannibal, bat biologists from the Missouri Department of Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that an extensive network of mines and caves, like those immortalized in Twain’s novels, provided essential hibernating habitat for an estimated 168,000 Indiana bats—approximately one-third of all the Indiana bats known to exist. No other bat hibernaculum of this size occurs anywhere else in the world. Prior to this discovery, experts presumed that all Indiana bats hibernated further south and in considerably smaller numbers, changing what we know about the species.

Our Role

With our extensive experience in infrastructure mitigation projects, we saw an opportunity to preserve this sensitive habitat, nearly triple the amount of recreational trails in the city and create environmental education opportunities—with absolutely no cost to the City of Hannibal.

The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the City of Hannibal, purchased 185 acres with funds from the Flanagan South Pipeline Mitigation fund provided by Enbridge Inc., which supports mitigation for impacts to endangered species and migratory birds resulting from the construction of the nearby pipeline.

The Sodalis Nature Preserve is now the second largest park in the City. Plans for the new nature preserve include nearly 6 miles of recreational trails and a mile long paved accessible hike/bike trail. It will also serve as a hands-on laboratory for students to observe and research bats.  Gates where installed over the mine entrances that allow bats to enter and exit the mine and keep people out.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation holds a conservation easement, ensuring the property—and the bats—will be protected forever, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor and manage the bat populations on the property. 

Why This Project Matters

The conservation value of this property cannot be overstated. It had to be preserved, but its cost would have crippled the budget of a small city like Hannibal. The Conservation Fund’s knowledge of mitigation funds led to a solution that saved the City millions of dollars and created the potential for additional economic benefits through nature-based activities and recreation on the new preserve.



“It was an incredibly stressful project to work on, but it was top-notch fun. This is the kind of stuff we live for. What I hope is that I can bring my grandkids here one day and be able to stand at the entrance and look down the corridor and see the mines. And then sit here in the evening and watch the bats come out in tens of thousands.”

Clint Miller, Midwest Project Director, The Conservation Fund

Protecting Open Space for People and Nature: Sodalis Nature Preserve




Dedication Of Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal, Missouri


 

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