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May 14, 2023 Madisonville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) had accepted invitations from three organizations to hold open an iris information booth at their events this spring. The last of the three events was held yesterday, May 13, 2023.

LICI participated in the Bayou Gardens Open House event put on by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on the grounds of their Lacombe, La. headquarters on February 25th. On Saturday, April 15th, LICI held open an iris information canopy at the Friends of the Palmetto Island State Park's Stir the Pot fundraising event in Vermilion Parish, La. LICI's third information canopy was held open at the Explore Nature event held by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative in Denham Springs, La. yesterday.

One of the US Fish & Wildlife Service social media notices featured the Louisiana iris.

The Bayou Gardens Open House event was held at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Lacombe, La. headquarters complex for their Southeast Louisiana refuges. The theme of the event was gardening with wildflowers and other plants to help pollinators and wildlife. LICI's exhibit explained how the wild native Louisiana irises in the swamps and the hybrid Louisiana iris cultivars in home gardens are important pollinator plants for bumblebees and hummingbirds. Their booth featured LICI's Mike Glaspell's photos of hummingbirds and bumblebees feeding on the irises at the Lockport, La. boardwalk. "Mike helped us hold the booth open so he would be there in person to answer any questions about his photography or the Lockport boardwalk," says LICI's Gary Salathe.

LICI's informational booth highlighted photos of hummingbirds, insects, and bees feeding on blooming Louisiana irises. The photos were taken by Mike Glaspell, who is one of LICI's volunteers at three of its iris restoration projects. Mike's hummingbird photos have

become well-known and appreciated among birding hobbyists.

Two LICI representatives and one of its volunteers met with a volunteer with Friends of Palmetto Island State Park along with their president at the boardwalk in Palmetto Island State Park on April 5, 2023. The purpose of the meeting was to review the history of the I. nelsonii Louisiana iris species irises being planted at the boardwalk in 2011 and the work that the Friends group has done to try and maintain the planting. By the end of the meeting, LICI agreed to take on a project to increase the number of I. nelsonii irises growing there and to take over the maintenance of the project. After the meeting, the president of the Friends group invited LICI to hold open an information booth at their Stir the Pot annual fundraiser that was going to take place in the park the following Saturday. "We readily agreed since it would give us a chance to meet members of the Friends group and the local community," LICI's president, Gary Salathe said.

The Facebook posting for the 2023 Friends of Palmetto Island State Park Stir the Pot event is shown above. The annual event is the main fundraiser for the Friends group. This event on April 15th was going to be the first one held since the COVID 19 pandemic

kept it from being put on for the last two years.

LICI's volunteer manning their info booth at the event said he talked to many people about Louisiana irises and the I. nelsonii planting at the park's boardwalk and how LICI will be helping out with it. Some of the people visiting the booth offered to help with the effort.

Very heavy rain just after the start of the 2023 Friends of Palmetto Island State Park Stir the Pot event on April 15th reduced the number of people attending the event.

However, attendance rebounded once the rain ended.

LICI was invited to have an information booth at the 2023 Explore Nature Event in Denham Springs, La. held on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The event is put on each year by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative (PMCI).

The Explore Nature event focuses on nature, conservation, and restoration. It is a way for the public to learn how to become a part of the growing effort to restore Louisiana's native habitats and wildlife. Krista Adams, President of PMCI says, "It's an opportunity to become engaged in a wide range of things, from volunteering for marsh restoration projects, planting a pollinator garden, providing safe housing and food for our native birds or other activities to conserve our resources."

Some of the Explore Nature marketing feature a photo that was taken by Mike Glaspell

of a hummingbird on an iris.

The event also included a guided bird walk, native plant and gardening information, live reptiles and birds, activities and face painting.

Three LICI volunteers came out to the event to hold the LICI booth open. "We welcome the opportunity this type of event gives us to meet and talk to the public about our work to conserve and restore our native Louisiana irises out in the swamps and marshes," Salathe says about LICI's willingness to hold open booths at events and festivals. "We try to do about four per year. Combined with having one of out volunteers appear as a guest speaker at local groups' meetings, it's a great way for us to get the word out about what we do and to attract more volunteers," Salathe sums up.

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Updated: Apr 21

March 26, 2023 Grand Isle, La.

The town of Grand Isle, La. organized a Louisiana iris and nature tour at one of The Nature Conservancy's properties on the island Saturday, March 25th. It was well attended, with about half of the attendees being from Grand Isle with the other half driving in from other areas.

Photo: LICI's Gary Salathe is seen in the center of the photo as the group begins the tour.

The guided tour was held at The Nature Conservancy's Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve. It was led by the site manager, Jean Landry. Jean's informative talk, which focused on the plants found on the property, also included historical facts about Grand Isle and her experiences, and the people she knew as she was growing up on the island.

Photo: Site manager, Jean Landry, is seen speaking to the group during the tour.

Gary Salathe, of the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative, was invited as a special guest to talk about the Louisiana irises growing along the boardwalk and some portions of the trail. The bog on the property is one of LICI's most important iris restoration projects. This is the fourth year of the project, which has survived two direct hits from hurricanes in two years. The irises have multiplied and filled in much of the available space in the bog and have now become something of a tourist destination while they are blooming.

Photo: Louisiana irises are shown blooming during the town of Grand Isle, La.'s Louisiana iris and nature tour at the Nature Conservancy property.

At the end of the tour during Jean's closing remarks to the group she thanked LICI for turning the bog at the boardwalk into a very special place that has become another destination for people visiting the island. Gary said afterward, "all of LICI's volunteers should be proud of the fact that the hard work that it took to rescue the irises, take care of them at our iris holding area, and then plant them at the Nature Conservancy property has turned into such a successful iris restoration project."

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March 12, 2023 New Orleans, La.

Sankofa Wetlands Park and Nature Trail's founder and chief executive officer Rashida Ferdinand's invited Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative's Gary Salathe to lead a tour of the blooming irises at an event held at the park for former New Orleans mayor and current president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. The event took place on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sankofa Wetlands Park in the lower ninth-ward neighborhood of New Orleans.

Photo: Attendees of the event begin to arrive. The leaders of numerous neighborhood non-profits and churches were invited to the special event.

Mr. Morial was the guest of honor at the event, which was to mark a milestone in the park's history and to thank everyone involved in the groups that have volunteered at Phase I and II of the beautiful wetlands park to bring it to its current state of completion. The park received funding last year to complete the final stage of construction. Construction is underway and almost finished for the entire length of the lagoon system.

Representatives of every community group in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood were invited, as well as all of the partner groups that are helping to make the park a reality. LICI's representative was just one of many other leaders from non-profits and organizations that supply volunteers to the park or take on projects there.

Photo: LICI's involvement at Sankofa Wetlands Park goes back to the first Louisiana iris planting there in December 2020. Volunteers from multiple groups are shown

planting irises at that event.

LICI has an important Louisiana iris restoration project at Sankofa. They are using the park as a location to have their rescued native I. giganticaerulea species irises multiply so they can be thinned out in the future to be used in marsh restoration projects. "Of course, a huge added benefit is that the irises are available for the public to see while they are blooming," LICI's Gary Salathe says. He added, "We're all about raising the awareness of this special native Louisiana plant with the public and people in positions of authority." That certainly happened this morning as Salathe took not only Marc Morial, but also a group of local dignitaries and non-profit leaders on a tour of the blooming irises at the park.

Photo: The event at Sankofa Wetlands Park coincided with the peak iris bloom. The blooming Louisiana irises put on a show for everyone that attended the event. The blooming irises shown in the photo are part of the original 2020 iris planting.

Photo: An alligator laying on a log near the irises put on quite the show for the

gathering at park on March 11th.

After the group saw a demonstration of plant and animal life in the waters of the park giving by the staff, Salathe was asked to give a tour of the blooming irises to the group. The tour was supposed to be brief and only for a short walk. Instead, Mr. Morial wanted to walk the entire length of the shoreline that held the blooming irises. He quizzed Salathe during the walk about the Louisiana iris and its place in the habitats of the marshes and swamps of Louisiana.

Photo: LICI's Gary Salathe, on left, is seen at the start of the tour of the blooming Louisiana irises at Sankofa Park at the event. Marc Morial is seen in the center of the photo wearing the gray T-shirt. Sankofa CEO, Rashida Ferdinand, is to the right of him.

At the end of a tour of the blooming irises, Mr. Morial thanked LICI and its volunteers for the work we have done at the park to create a repository of native Louisiana irises to be used in future restoration projects. Salathe said afterward that "This morning was a very meaningful event for all of the groups involved at Sankofa. It's hard to think of anything better than to have LICI's volunteers, and the other goups' volunteers, publicly recognized and thanked for all of the hard work they have done at the park. That happened this morning. We really appreciate it."

Information on Sankofa Wetlands Park and Nature Trail can be found here:

Information on the National Urban League can be found here:

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