In October 2022, the Monroe County Land Authority purchased almost an acre of coveted hardwood hammock habitat in front of the Tradewinds Shopping Center in Key Largo. Upon inspection of the site, Assistant Land Steward Jim Duquesnel discovered just how special this particular piece is when he found nearly two dozen live Florida Banded Tree Snails (Orthalicus floridensis).
Monroe County Commissioner Holly Merrill Raschein, who had encouraged the original acquisition, acknowledged the importance of such land authority purchases. “The Land Authority acquiring this property shows the importance of this program,” said Merrill Raschein. “Not only did we protect this area in perpetuity, but we also found it is a habitat for native local snails.”
This snail species has been under attack since the introduction of the New Guinea Flatworm, an invasive predator of snails, in the mid-2010s. As a result, the snail is currently part of the State of Florida’s Imperiled Species Management Plan.
Merrill Raschein asked Land Authority staff to work on the purchase at the request of the Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowners Association. The association conducted many cleanups of this parcel in the past and believed Land Authority ownership would help manage the site and ensure the long-term protection of this vital habitat.
“The Land Authority Advisory Committee ranks priority parcels for purchase, and this property ended up being one that ranked well enough to acquire given its environmental importance,” said Linda Grist Cunningham, chair of the committee.
Anyone interested in learning more about Florida’s native (and introduced) tree snails should visit:
To learn more about the invasive New Guinea Flatworm that is threatening these types of snails, visit:
For information on the Monroe County Land Authority, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/landauthority.
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