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November 18, 2022 New Orleans, La.


The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) and Common Ground Relief are partnering again this year for a tree planting project in the US Fish and Wildlife Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans East. Their goal is to plant 1,500 trees during this winter's planting season. The group held their first planting event at the refuge during November 16th - 17th. 500 one-gallon pots of bald cypress trees were planted in an area between the north side of the Ridge Trail boardwalk and the edge of the marsh.

Louisiana Green Corps workers and other volunteers begin work preparing the trees to be taken to the planting site.


Gary Salathe, with LICI, pointed out that it took a group effort to get this tree planting done:

- Through the efforts of the non-profit Tierra Foundation, funding was supplied by Kosmos Energy for the planting as part of their grant for the Louisiana Green Corps job training program, which also included funds for supplies, trees, and organizational expenses for this tree planting project.

The leadership group for the November 16 - 17th Bayou Sauvage Urban Wildlife Refuge tree planting project with Louisiana Green Corps gathered on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at the refuge to do a project walk-through. (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.


- Common Ground Relief and the Tierra Foundation used this funding 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 will take place this winter.


- Common Ground Relief organized volunteer groups to plant the bare-root tree seedlings into pots at their wetlands nursery, and to water and weed the pots over the last eight months. Some of Common Ground Relief's volunteers also helped plant the trees during the event.

One-gallon potted cypress trees were used for the planting.


- LICI is the permit holder with the refuge and used its volunteers to scout out and select locations for the tree planting, kill 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.

Charlotte Clarke, with Common Ground Relief, is shown giving the group a safety talk before they begin work.


- Comite Resources was hired to supply some of their experienced tree-planting staff to head up three of the tree-planting teams and to share their expertise with the entire group.


Jason Day, Filed Director for Comite Resources, shows the group a demonstration on installing the nutria guards.


- And finally, the Louisiana Green Corps signed onto the tree planting to supply workers from their construction job training program to give them some experience in marsh restoration work.

A member of the Louisiana Green Corps (in green) is shown planting one of the 500 cypress trees during the two-day event.


The Louisiana Green Corps workers attended a workshop given by Common Ground Relief the day before to learn about the work the non-profit does in marsh restoration and why this tree-planting event was so important.


When the leadership team went out to mark tree planting locations on November 15th they discovered a stand of 4 - 5 year-old cypress trees planted without nutria guards by other volunteers. It looked like the nutria had been eating portions of the tree bark during the last couple of years on some of the trees. In some cases, the trees were girdled by the nutria's eating and have died. Many of the trees were hanging on but had recently been chewed on again. A decision was made that the group would put nutria guards on these trees while they were out there planting the new trees.


LICI's Gary Salathe and Common Ground Relief's volunteer, Andrew, decided that they would take on the job of installing nutria guards on the older trees that the group found where nutria had been eating on the bark.


LICI and Common Ground Relief have plans to continue planting one-gallon potted cypress trees with smaller groups of volunteers as time allows during December. They have scheduled two larger groups of volunteers to plant bare-root tree seedlings in mid-January, which should achieve their goal of 1,500 trees planted this winter at the refuge.

A member of the Louisiana Green Corps is seen installing a nutria guard on one of the newly planted cypress trees on November 17th at the Bayou Sauvage refuge.


LICI is a Louisiana non-profit that works to reestablish Louisiana irises in areas where they were once abundant, like the Bayou Sauvage refuge, so the question arises as to why an iris restoration group is doing tree planting. The answer has to do with an invasive tree species, the Chinese tallow tree.


LICI began a Chinese tallow tree eradication program two years ago to clear off areas of the old Bayou Sauvage shoreline to plant irises. The goal was expanded to clearing out all of the Chinese tallow trees in the boardwalk forest when their volunteers discovered native trees that had been planted in recent years that were being crowded and shaded by the tallow trees. Once areas of tallow trees had been killed off, there was a need to replant some areas with native trees if the trees previously planted had died. Whole areas were then discovered that had never been replanted after Hurricane Katrina devastated the forest. "Our goal from the beginning of our iris planting project was to help the refuge recover more quickly back to what it was before the hurricane severely damaged it. I guess it was a natural progression of our project that got us into planting trees to help accomplish this overall goal," LICI's Gary Salathe says.

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November 14, 2022 Jean Lafitte, La.


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


The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) also held an information booth open at the Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival for the second year in a row. The booth was manned with LICI volunteers and 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 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 the foundation created along the Wetlands Trace boardwalk. The entrance to the boardwalk where the ribbon cutting was held was on the Seafood 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 town residents could use portions of it 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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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 would 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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