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December 17, 2021 Grand Isle, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) participated in an event organized by the Nature Conservancy to help clean-up Hurricane Ida storm debris from their Grilletta Tract of the Lafitte Woods Preserve. In addition, LICI's volunteers planted another 400 Louisiana irises in the freshwater bog located on the property while they were there.

The Nature Conservancy's Grilletta Tract is part of their Lafitte Woods, which is 35 acres live oak tree groves on Grand Isle. The Lafitte Woods is the last remnant of the live oak tree groves that of what once covered the entire island.

The Nature Conservancy's Lafitte Woods is a critical habitat for birds to rest once they have migrated across the Gulf of Mexico in the spring or to rest before they start their return trip in the fall. It attracts bird watchers from around the country.

The Grilletta Tract is one parcel of land among others that make up the Lafitte Woods holdings of the Nature Conservancy in Grand Isle. It is the site of an on-going Louisiana iris restoration project started by the Grand Isle Garden Club that has been continued since 2020 by LICI.

LICI's volunteers begin work helping to cleanup Hurricane Ida storm debris at the iris bog of the Nature Conservancy's Grilletta Tract on December 17th. Many of the volunteers were residents of nearby Lafourche parish and had also received hurricane damage to their homes and properties.

Crews from other Nature Conservancy properties in south Louisiana were on-site with equipment to help clean up as LICI's volunteers worked in the bog area.

Photo: As The Nature Conservancy's crew used heavy equipment to clean off hurricane debris from the front section of the property a LICI volunteer is shown bringing some irises to the freshwater bog for planting.

Grand Isle is a barrier island on Louisiana's Gulf of Mexico coast. The Grilletta Tract is located near the center of the island. The rear of the property has frontage on the back bay of Grand Isle. The irises are planted in a bog at the center of the property where there is a short boardwalk. Hurricane Ida's storm surge put the irises growing in the freshwater bog completely underwater with full-strength Gulf of Mexico seawater.

The volunteers begin planting irises after they had removed the hurricane debris.

2020's Hurricane Zeta also flooded the bog with its saltwater storm surge. LICI's Gary Salathe says, "The only explanation we have for their survival is that the storm surge came in quickly and left just as quickly after the storm passed by. That was followed by the drainage from next door neighborhoods allowing rainwater to flow through the bog for the last two months flushing out the salt left in the soil."

The last of the Louisiana iris are shown being planted.

LICI has plans to come back at least one more time to plant an equal number of Louisiana irises in the Grilletta Tract's freshwater bog during January.

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December 16, 2021 Laplace, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) completed a Louisiana iris rescue using volunteers from the University of Alabama - Huntsville yesterday, Wednesday, December 15th. Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans non-profit, is hosting the students for a week of service activities in the area. LICI volunteers from Lafourche Parish also participated in the iris rescue. Other LICI volunteers clean up the irises and put them into short-term storage at the LICI iris holding area in New Orleans that afternoon.

Charlotte Clarke, Executive Director of Common Ground Relief is seen giving the opening remarks to the volunteers.

Some of the irises we be planted at the Lockport, La. Wetlands Elevated Boardwalk within the next couple of weeks. Other locations where the irises will be planted are the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans and at the Nature Conservancy's Gilletta Tract in the Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve on Grand Isle, La.

The volunteers begin work digging up irises.

The group rescued approximately 1,500 I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris that were growing on a property, which is located west of New Orleans, is zoned for commercial development and is for sale. The owner has encouraged LICI to get the irises relocated. LICI is also working with the lease-holder of this portion of the property who has a fireworks stand on-site to get irises out of areas where he will be expanding his parking area.

Natalie "Chip" Stone, Volunteer Relations Coordinator with the international non-profit All Hands and Hearts, is shown helping sort through the irises. Natalie is interested in her group working with LICI on iris restoration projects. She took the opportunity of the iris rescue being close to her local headquarters for their Hurricane Ida relief work to come out and meet the group and see one of LICI's projects in progress. She ended up spending the entire morning helping out.

Since the irises that were rescued are in the growth mode for the winter they can be planted directly back into the swamp in one of LICI's iris restoration project, instead of spending time strengthening up at their iris holding area.

"This was the first out-of-state college student volunteer event we have done with Common Ground Relief since the pandemic started in early 2020. I have to say, it felt really good to be back in the game with volunteers like this!" said Gary Salathe, organizer of the event for LICI.

The volunteers that participated in the December 15, 2021 iris rescue.

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December 7, 2021 New Orleans

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has an on-going multi-year Louisiana iris restoration project at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. GulfCorps, through Limitless Vistas, Inc., has supplied workers for the iris restoration project at the refuge during the last two years. Their workers have planted many of the 3,000 irises that are part of the project.

The Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is located within the city limits of New Orleans. Its one of the few US Fish & Wildlife Service refuges designated as an "urban refuge" within their system of refuges. However, the area of New Orleans East where the refuge is located is sparsely populated.

Unfortunately, significant number of irises were lost at the Bayou Sauvage Refuge iris restoration site due to high waters caused by the unusually heavy rainfall during most of 2021. The New Orleans area a total of received 85" of rain for 2021. The Louisiana iris species used in the project, the I. giganticaerulea iris, prefers being in wet soil and will grow in standing water that is 6" deep or shallower. The heavy rains at the refuge caused the water level to rise up above that. There were long periods of time in some of the iris stands when the water was 12" deep.

Some of the Louisiana irises are shown blooming in April of 2021 before the extremely high water period at the refuge began.

Limitless Vistas, Inc. made plans to increase the number of hours that their GulfCorps workers would spend at the refuge to help replace the irises that died off because of the high water events.

Louisiana irises being planted yesterday at the Bayou Sauvage Refuge within the the area to be monitored by the Nature Conservancy.

GulfCorps is a partnership of The Nature Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GulfCorp's purpose is to create jobs for hundreds of young adults along the Gulf of Mexico restoring the natural features and habitats on critical conservation lands. With the support of the RESTORE Council (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revised Economies of the Gulf Coast States), GulfCorps workers help to protect and restore the Gulf Coast's lands and waters while creating jobs through conservation corps in the five coastal states; Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

GulfCorps is a partnership of The Nature Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Limitless Vistas does job training of GulfCorps members in Southeast Louisiana.

Limitless Vistas is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to creating opportunities for disconnected young adults. They handle the job training of GulfCorps members in Southeast Louisiana. It Limitless Vistas (LVI) provides free environmental conservation workforce development and job training. To date, LVI has trained over 600 local individuals with a placement rate of 75%.

Libby Cornell is an instructor and Senior Crew Leader for Limitless Vistas and is LICI's contact person with them. She is also on the board of directors for the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI).

One of Limitless Vistas' GulfCorps crews working on a LICI tree clearing project at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in 2021.

LICI' led volunteers worked all through 2021 to opened up huge sections of swamp shoreline in the iris restoration area by killing Chinese Tallow trees during 2021. Many of the bushes that were growing along the shoreline also died off because of the high water. This opened up long stretches of the shoreline for the first time for irises to be planted. "This will allow the irises to grow on wet, but not flooded, higher ground, which should reduce the chances of the irises being impacted by any future high water events.", LICI's lead on the project, Gary Salathe, says.

Some of the members of LICI's Chinese Tallow extraction project at the Bayou Sauvage Refuge are shown after one of their weekly work-mornings (left to right) Tres Fisher, Richard Bosworth and GulfCorps student and refuge intern, Aaron Hunter. The project started in Ferbuary 2021 and ended once the tree planted season began in Novebember of 2021. The volunteers work all through the year with a couple of breaks during the spring tree sap rise and August's extreme heat.

The Nature Conservancy's GulfCorps Conservation Information Manager, Karrie Arnold, has recently begun an program to collect base data on long-term projects that GulfCorps workers are participating in. This will be followed by annual visits by her in future years to monitor the success of each project.

After receiving approval of the monitoring program from the refuge manager, Karrie contact LICI through Limitless Vistas' Libby Cornell to arrange to visit the site of the iris restoration project. The day for was set so that Karrie's visit would coincide with a tree planting and iris planting volunteer event organized by LICI at the refuge. That day was yesterday, December 6, 2021. Volunteers from Common Ground Relief, LICI and a Limitless Vistas' GulfCorps crew were on the refuge planting bald cypress trees and Louisiana irises.

Nature Conservancy's GulfCorps Conservation Information Manager, Karrie Arnold (in blue T-shirt), is seen with a GulfCorps workers installing a grid within the iris restoration area of the refuge on December 6, 2021. Each iris within the grid was counted. The plan is for Karrie to return during the 2022 iris bloom in April to do another count to see how the iris numbers have increased through naturally multiplying and by additional plantings.

In addition to Karrie's goal of learning more about LICI's iris restoration project at the refuge and GulfCorps' involvement in it, she wanted to use the GulfCorps crew to do an estimate of the number of irises currently planted in the project to create her base data. She took the GulfCorps crew after they had finished planting trees and irises and set up a grid in the swamp to count the irises in two sections of the restoration area. The number of irises found within the grid was extrapolated out over the whole iris restoration area to come up with an estimate of how many irises survived this year's flood. This estimate will be the base number to compare with how many irises she finds next April after they have recovered from the 2021 floods, multiply by natural increase and more are planted.

A snapshot from an instrument Karrie Arnold used to document the number of irises growing and the ground conditions at two of the iris restoration areas to create a baseline to compare future date collected.

Karrie will come back each year to see how the irises are doing and do a new count to see how much they have increased, both from natural growth and from LICI adding more irises through additional plantings. Her monitoring program of this project over time will quantify the progress and success of this iris restoration. "We welcome this involvement by a nationally recognized organization and actually find it exciting that they are so interested in our project.", LICI's Gary Salathe said.

The GulfCorps crew is shown after planting over 200 irises yesterday.

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