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November 20, 2022 Mandeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held a Louisiana iris planting event at the Pelican Park Recreation District #1 located near Mandeville, LA. on November 19th. This was the second planting event LICI held since the project began in late 2021. Even though it was a cold, damp morning with rain threatening, over 30 volunteers came out to plant the estimated 600 irises.

Pelican Park is a taxpayer-supported park near Fontainebleau State Park and the Northlake Nature Center. It is 550 acres in size and consists of 32 athletic fields, a 3-court gym, a 4-court gym, the 46,000 square foot multi-purpose Castine Center, paved roads, a walking trail, dog park, batting skate park, sand volleyball courts, 18 hole disc golf course, and parking for over 1,700 vehicles.

LICI was contacted in August by Louisette Scott, Environmental Educator for Pelican Park in 2021 about finding locations on their property to plant Louisiana irises. Part of Louisette's responsibilities is to manage and increase the number of native plants growing within the park. An agreement was quickly reached that allowed LICI to use a low detention area and a nearby long linear detention area as the location for the irises to be planted.

The iris planting site is near the park's Gold and Silver Complexes parking lots within a portion of the disc golf course.

LICI currently has six locations in public places, including Pelican Park, where they plant rescued irises as a place for them to multiply on their own without any maintenance being needed. The landowners in each of the six locations have agreed to allow LICI access to the irises to thin them out in future years to use on other iris restoration projects. "This gets the irises out of harm's way where they are currently growing in locations where they are threatened with destruction and "parks" them in a protected location where we can have future access to them. Its a win/win deal for all involved, is the way we see it", says Gary Salathe, a board of directors member of LICI and the lead for them on the Pelican Park project.

The six locations are in addition to LICI's usual public planting sites at area wildlife refuges, and nature preserves where they plant the irises in their natural habitat.

The linear detention area is shown next to the Silver Complex parking area before the grass and weeds were cut in early September.

The blooming irises will be in view to the public, which furthers LICI's goal of raising awareness of this native Louisiana plant. "Over 1 million visitors per year use the park. On any given weekend day there could be as many as 12,000 people attending various organized sporting events", Executive Director of the park, Margie Lewis says.

Some irises were planted as a test in the long detention area at Pelican Park in January 2022. To everyone's surprise, many of them bloomed just three months later, as shown in the photo.

The plan was for the park's maintenance crews to cut the grass twice yearly in the detention areas while the irises are dormant from July to early September. The plan worked well at the long detention area this summer, but the crews were too concerned about hurting the irises in the main detention area, so it was not cut. "That was unfortunate because we ended up having to cut it with hand-held weed-eaters with bush blades just before our November planting event", LICI's Gary Salathe says. He added that he now has a direct line of communication with the grounds crew manager and they'll work together on the cutting schedule next year.

A week before the November 19th iris planting volunteers from LICI cut the grass in the main planting area using a weed-eater with a brush blade.

The I. giganticaerulea species iris from the LICI iris rescue program was used for the planting on November 19th at Pelican Park.

The irises planted during the November 19th event came from LICI's iris rescue program. Many of the irises were rescued last March and have been growing at LICI's iris holding area in New Orleans to strengthen up for transplanting this autumn.

Volunteers begin to arrive for the iris planting on November 19th.

Although there were many positive responses to the Facebook event posting, it was uncertain how many people would actually come out to help. The weather forecast called for a cold drizzly rain to begin at noon, but the radar showed that the rain could arrive much earlier. The event was scheduled for 9 AM until noon.

Volunteers begin planting the trailer full of irises at the main planting site in the larger detention area.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised when over 30 volunteers showed up ready to work. The group included members of multiple Boy Scout Troops, one member of a Girl Scout Troop, and several students from Southeastern University. Members of the St. Tammany Master Gardeners Association helped out as did some of LICI's volunteers, along with members of the public.

The volunteers were from all age groups.

Everyone worked hard and finished up a little early, which worked out well because it started to drizzle just as everyone was leaving.

LICI's Salathe says, "We are very appreciative of all of the hard work that went into making this iris planting possible, from the volunteers that rescued the irises, the volunteers that maintained the irises over the last eight months, and to the volunteers on the 19th that got them all planted."

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Updated: 1 day ago

November 14, 2022 Jean Lafitte, La.

During a ceremony held during the 2022 Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival to dedicate new information signage for the Wetlands Trace boardwalk LICI was recognized for its role in organizing two events to clear Hurricane Ida debris from the boardwalk.

For the second year in a row, the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held an information booth open at the Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival. The booth was manned with LICI volunteers and some volunteers from Common Ground Relief on Saturday and Sunday, November 12th and 13th. The festival invites coastal restoration groups each year to hold open information booths about their non-profits and work. Gary Salathe, president and board member of LICI said, "Our volunteers talked to many people about irises and the work we do, signed up new volunteers, made some new contacts with other organizations.......and had a good time!"

Gary Salathe, seen in the center, is shown with LICI volunteers, Leigh Anne Salathe and Connie Adams just before the LICI booth opens on Sunday, November 13th at the

Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival.

The town of Jean Lafitte's Wetlands Trace Boardwalk is the site of a multi-year iris restoration project that LICI has underway. The town also has big plans for a multi-million dollar wetlands center that is currently under construction at the entrance to the boardwalk.

Sarah Mack, with the Tierra Foundation, invited LICI's Gary Salathe and Josh Benitez, co-director of Common Ground Relief, to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new signage they created along the Wetlands Trace boardwalk. The entrance to the boardwalk where the ribbon cutting was held was on the festival grounds. The ceremony was used by Mayor Tim Kerner, Jr. to thank the Teirra Foundation and their donor, Kosmos Energy, for not only the new signage but also for repairing the boardwalk after Hurricane Ida.

Mayor Tim Kerner, Jr. is seen with Sarah Mack giving his remarks to the assembled group for the dedication of the new signage on the boardwalk.

In his remarks, the mayor also thanked the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative and Common Ground Relief for acting on their own initiative to clear Hurricane Ida debris from the boardwalk so portions of it could be used by town residents until repairs could be done by the Tierre Foundation. Sarah Mack also thanked LICI in her remarks for clearing the debris and for the group's help with supplying information about the irises they have planted at the boardwalk. The information was used on one of the displays.

Tierre Foundation's Sarah Mack, is seen cutting the ribbon for the official dedication of the new information displays her foundation created for the boardwalk. An executive of Kosmos Energy is seen on the left and Jean Lafitte mayor Tim Kerner, Jr. is seen on the right.

LICI's Gary Salthe, on left, is seen with Common Ground Relief's, Josh Benitez at the entrance to the boardwalk after the ribbon had been cut.

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Updated: Oct 28

October 27, 2022 New Orleans, La.

Volunteers with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed an iris rescue on Sunday, October 23, 2002 after a call for volunteers went out with only short notice for the event. Six volunteers worked for three hours to remove 1,500 I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from a low area in front of the property along Hwy 90 near Des Allemands, La.

This is what the site near Des Allemands, La. looked like during LICI's last iris rescue event held there in July 2021.

Photo: The same site is shown as volunteers dig irises on October 23, 2022. The irises had enough time since the cutting to be able to have their new leaf growth poke up through the debris.

LICI has organized four iris rescue events at the property over the last two years. The landowner had been keeping the state highway workers at bay over the years to stop them from spraying the low area with a herbicide, as all of the ditches in the area have been. However, after he put the property up for sale two years ago the owner felt like it was highly unlikely that the new owners would maintain the area the way he has. The spot would then become densely weeded, including young trees trying to grow up in it, which wold block the the drainage. He thought it would be only a question of time before the highway department would start spraying it.

LICI's plan was to go back one more time to remove the remaining irises after the first frost kills back competing weeds and plants. This would expose the irises as they are in their winter growth mode. However, LICI received notice from one of their volunteers that live in the area that the iris area had been cut down to the bare ground. Since the land was for sale they assumed it had sold. This would likely eliminate any chance to get back to finish collecting the irises that remained.

Photo: The son of the owner of the property (in blue shirt) stopped by to tell the group hello. "He was pleased that the irises will be used in LICI's iris restoration projects. We have kept him up-date over the last two years on where his family's irises have been planted," Salathe said.

When they contacted the owner to get the new owner's contact info he said that he hadn't sold it yet and he was the one that cut it. "He recommended that we get out as many of the irises as we can, as soon as we can," LICI's president, Gary Salathe said. "We decided this was a very close call on the land being sold and we didn't want to let too much time go by before we got back out there to dig the irises," he added.

Photo: The group took turns cleaning weeds out of the clumps of irises as they came in from the field.

The October 23rd LICI iris rescue was rushed through with a Facebook event notice only being put up four days before with emails also being sent out to their volunteer list at the same time. "Our six volunteers rallied to the call and came out and got the job done!", Salathe said.

Photo: The estimated 1,500 rescued irises are ready to move on to the next step towards being planted out in the swamps and marshes of Southeast Louisiana.

The second part of this iris rescue took place on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans, La. where a group of out-of-state high school students volunteered to plant the irises into containers. The students were from the Miami area and were in town through an NCSY program. They arrived at the New Orleans International Airport that morning and drove straight out to the lower ninth-ward neighborhood location of the iris holding area. After working 2 1/12 hours on the beautiful and cool morning the group had all of the irises planted. Common Ground Relief, a local non-profit involved in marsh restoration projects, organized the planting for the high school students.

There were enough empty containers available at the iris holding area because some of the irises rescued earlier in the year had recently gone out for planting in LICI's iris restoration projects.

Photo: The irises are shown being planted at the LICI iris holding area on Wednesday, October 26th, by students that were in New Orleans through a program of the NCSY organization.

The irises will grow and strengthen up at LICI's iris holding area until they are ready to be planted out in the marshes and swamps of southeast Louisiana in late December in the group's iris restoration projects.

Photo: The volunteers that dug up the irises during the iris rescue event on October 23rd are shown on the left and volunteers that planted those same irises into containers on October 26th are shown on the right. "One of the things I really enjoy about working on our projects is that the volunteers come from all age groups and backgrounds," Salathe says.

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