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Latest news

from LICI


January 29, 2023 Madisonville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has accepted invitations from two groups to hold open an iris information booth at their events this spring. LICI will be participating 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 25, 2023. On May 13, 2023, LICI will have an info booth at the Explore Nature event being held by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative at the walking trail in North Park of the Denham Springs, La. Department of Parks and Recreation.

This "Save the Date" Facebook posting on the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Facebook page used a photo from LICI volunteer, Mike Glaspell. He took the photo of a hummingbird feeding on an iris flower at the Lockport, La., boardwalk, which is home to one of LICI's iris restoration projects.

The Bayou Gardens open house will celebrate the gardens found on the grounds around the home, which have huge, old camellia bushes that will be in bloom. There will also be free tours, nature activities, workshops, guest speakers, garden experts, park rangers, and volunteer guides that will allow guests to explore USF&WS' Bayou Lacombe headquarters historic gardens and trails.

The theme of the open house event will be gardening with wildflowers and other plants to help pollinators and wildlife. LICI's exhibit will explain 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 will also feature LICI's volunteer, Mike Glaspell's, photos of hummingbirds and bumblebees feeding on the irises at the Lockport, La. boardwalk. "He will be helping us hold the booth open, so he will be there in person to answer any questions about his photography or the Lockport boardwalk," says LICI's Gary Salathe.

The event will be held February 25th 9 AM until 3 PM at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge's Lacombe Center, at 61389 Highway 434 near Lacombe, La. in St. Tammany parish.

LICI has accepted an invitation to be an exhibitor at the Explore Nature event being organized by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative in Denham Springs, La, on May 13th from 8:30 AM until noon. Their exhibit will focus on the work of LICI in restoring the state wildflower of Louisiana, the I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris, into the marshes and swamps of Louisiana where it was once found in abundance.

Multiple exhibitors have signed up for the event regarding wildlife, birds, native plants, and habitat restoration. "We're excited to be part of the event this year to get the word out about the need to preserve our native Louisiana irises and the habitat in which they grow," says LICI's Gary Salathe.

Both events are free and open to the public.


January 22, 2023 New Orleans, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) and Common Ground Relief have announced the completion of their winter 2022 - 2023 joint tree planting project at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans, La.

The project began with four three-gallon sweetbay magnolia trees donated and planted by LICI on November 1, 2022 at the refuge. It ended with a small group of LICI's volunteers planting the last 80 bare-root tree seedlings on Monday, January 16, 2023. During the ten-week length of the project, volunteers from multiple groups planted a total of 650 one-gallon potted cypress trees, four three-gallon sweetbay magnolias, and a total of 1,000 live oak, American elm, hackberry, and honey locus tree seedlings. All of the trees were planted in the ridge forest or its adjacent marsh in the boardwalk area of the refuge.

LICI's volunteer, Galya Deblank, is seen planting the first tree of the project, a sweetbay Magnolia, on November 1, 2022. On Monday, January 16, 2023, she was part of a three-person group of LICI volunteers that planted the last 80 tree seedlings.

The first large-scale volunteer event for the tree planting project was held on November 16 and 17, 2022 when trainees from Louisiana Green Corps planted 500 one-gallon pots of bald cypress trees.

Louisiana Green Corps trainees are shown loading up the first batch of 500 one-gallon cypress trees that they planted on November 16th and 17th at the Bayou Sauvage refuge.

The November potted cypress tree planting was funded through a grant by Kosmos Energy to the non-profit Tierra Foundation. The grant was for the Louisiana Green Corps job training program and included funds for supplies, trees, and organizational expenses for this tree planting project. The Tierra Foundation partnered with Common Ground Relief to use the proceeds from the grant to purchase thousands of bare-root cypress tree seedlings, potting soil, tree pots, and nutria guards late last spring for numerous tree-planting projects in southeast Louisiana that were to take place this winter.

The leadership group for the Bayou Sauvage Urban Wildlife Refuge tree planting project with Louisiana Green Corps gathered on Tuesday, November 15, 2022, at the refuge to do a walk-through of the project, which started the next day. Photo: (Left to right) Gary Salathe - Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative, Olivia Reynolds - Kosmos Energy, Sarah Mack - Tierra Foundation, Charlotte Clarke - Common Ground Relief, and Josh Benitez - Common Ground Relief.

LICI holds a tree planting permit with the refuge for their two-year partnership with Common Ground Relief to plant trees there. LICI's volunteers scouted out locations for the tree planting, killed off some of the Chinese tallow trees within the planting site in the weeks before, and cut a trail from the boardwalk a few days before the event to make the planting sites easily accessible and safe for the group planting trees. Some of their volunteers also helped with the tree planting during the event.

A Louisiana Green Corps job training program member is seen planting a bald cypress tree on November 16th. Its the first time she had ever been involved in any type of

forest restoration.

A group of volunteers from the University of South Dakota planted an additional 33 one-gallon potted bald cypress trees as part of a Louisiana iris planting event held by LICI at the refuge. Common Ground Relief hosted the student volunteers as they did service activities in the New Orleans area and included the Monday, December 19th iris and tree planting event on their list of activities.

Volunteers with the University of South Dakota are shown working at the Bayou Sauvage refuge on December 19, 2022.

The Ella West Freeman Foundation issued a grant this past spring for the purchase of 1,000 bare-root tree seedlings and to cover the cost of supplies and a small amount of overhead for a Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative/Common Ground Relief joint tree planting project for the winter 2022 - 2023 tree planting season in the Bayou Sauvage refuge. The grant was used to purchase live oak, American elm, hackberry, and honey locus bare-root tree seedlings, along with nutria guards and bamboo support sticks for each seedling. The tree species selected came from observations made on-site at the refuge of the type of trees currently growing there and from a University of New Orleans study completed before Hurricane Katrina of the trees found on the refuge.

Bare-root tree seedlings and supplies are shown that were purchased with funding supplied by the Ella West Freeman Foundation.

On Thursday and Friday, January 12 & 13, 2023, forty Texas A & M University volunteers planted 900 bare-root seedlings, 135 one-gallon potted cypress trees, and 1,000 Louisiana irises. The event was organized by Common Ground Relief. The large group was divided into smaller work crews supervised by volunteers from the university, Common Ground Relief, and LICI.

Part of the bare-root tree seedling planting crew from Texas A & M are shown during the LICI & Common Ground Relief volunteer event held at the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans on Friday, January 13, 2023.

This is the second year of LICI's and Common Ground Relief's partnership to restore the Bayou Sauvage refuge ridge forest. LICI's president and board of directors member, Gary Salathe, said, "This is a great example of how numerous volunteers with diverse backgrounds and their various organizations can come together to do great things. Our project with Common Ground Relief has taken a huge leap forward in accomplishing our goal of restoring this critical ridge forest only because of the help we received from everyone involved. 'Thank you!' goes out to them."

All Texas A & M volunteers are shown after the LICI & Common Ground Relief bare root tree planting volunteer event held at the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans on Friday, January 12 & 13, 2023.


January 20, 2023 Houma, La

Volunteers with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) added 150 Louisiana irises to their iris restoration project at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Mandalay refuge near Houma, La. on January 19, 2023. The purpose of the project is to increase the number of I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris growing along the nature trail. The number of irises, which are native to the refuge, has been significantly reduced due to saltwater storm surges from past hurricanes.

The first significant iris planting at the Mandalay refuge boardwalk was organized by 4H Club coordinator, Cherie Roger and SeaGrant Area Agent - Southwest Region, Nicole Lundberg for the Terrebonne parish 4H Club Junior Leaders. The Greater New Orleans Iris Society donated the 300 irises. The planting took place on November 10, 2019.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative picked up the project in 2020 and added more irises that year and in 2021. Irises from the LICI iris rescue program have been used for all of their plantings.

Unlike many of LICI's iris restoration projects along area boardwalks, the irises have been planted along a nature trail at the Mandalay refuge. The photo was taken before Hurricane Ida blew down many of the trees along the nature trail in 2022.

The nature trail at the Mandalay refuge took a huge hit from Hurricane Ida, losing many trees. Since these fallen trees had opened up the tree canopy, allowing for more sunlight to reach down to the ground, LICI decided to plant more irises this year.

Volunteers with the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative are seen on January 19, 2023 inspecting the damage to the Mandalay refuge nature trail caused by 2022's Hurricane Ida.

A group of LICI volunteers went out to check on the damage caused by Hurricane Ida to the Mandalay refuge nature trail on January 19, 2023. They brought 150 irises with them to plant. They discovered all of the irises that were previously planted survived and are doing well. Although the fallen trees did open up the tree canopy, the new sunlight hitting the floor of the forest caused brush, weeds, and new tree seedlings to quickly fill in those spots.

One clump of previously planted irises is shown in the photo that was taken on January 19th.

The volunteers found enough locations near previously planted irises to plant all 150 of the irises they brought with them.

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