July 15, 2022, New Orleans, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) rescued and planted 6,000 wild Iris giganticaerulea (a species of Louisiana iris) in refuges and nature preserves in 2021. The group is targeting 6,000 irises again for rescues and plantings for 2022.
The first step in accomplishing this goal is to locate irises that are threatened with destruction and dig them up and "rescue" them. That process has already begun with LICI completing three iris "rescues" so far this year that has brought in about 4,000 I. giganticaerulea irises to their iris holding area.
Photo: LICI volunteers are shown setting up the LICI iris holding area in July 2020.
Since the iris rescues typically are done during the summer, while the irises are either about to go into or are in their dormancy period, the irises are planted into waterproof containers at the LICI iris holding area to allow them to strengthen up by growing out new roots and leaves. The irises are usually ready by late September for planting into their iris restoration projects. The group's goal is to have all of the containers empty with the irises planted by January 2023.
Photo: Some of the irises from early spring are almost ready to move out into
LICI projects, as shown in this photo taken on August 5th.
From summer 2020 until January of this year LICI had to rely on local volunteers for their iris rescues and planting projects. In Pre-COVID 19 days there was a flow of out-of-state college students coming in to help, often hosted by local not-for-profit organizations and motivated by various incentives, including earning public service hour credits. "During the last two years it has required many more volunteer events of 6 to 8 people to accomplish what 15 to 20 college students could achieve in just one outing", says LICI's Gary Salathe.
Photo: A 2021 iris rescue in using local volunteers.
LICI is now back to pre-pandemic times, mainly using out-of-state university students as volunteers. The group helps local sponsor organizations by supplying them with work the volunteers can do for at least one day while they are in town. The college-age volunteers do the heavy work at the rescue events. "Our local volunteers either get down and dirty and work alongside these students if they are physically able or help in other ways to organize and support the events," Salathe says. He said that local LICI volunteers also take charge of certain aspects of a project site over the long term. Others keep them in contact with various landowners, local governments, and other non-profits. Some assist with social media and public relations.
Photo: A 2022 iris rescue in using out-of-state college student volunteers
from Iowa State University.
Photo: The same Iowa State University volunteers at the LICI iris holding
area planting the irises they rescued
the day before.
The local non-profit, Common Ground Relief, was hosting the Iowa State University volunteers for a week of service activities in Southeast Louisiana doing marsh restoration projects. They spent two days working with LICI.
In June volunteers from the Students Shoulder to Shoulder organization worked with LICI to complete their second and third iris rescue of the season. The volunteers were high school students from around the country. They were in south Louisiana for a week of volunteering in coastal restoration projects through events held by their local host, Common Ground Relief.
Photo: Both of the June 2022 iris rescue events were held
while the area was experiencing a heat
wave with temperatures in the mid-90s.
Photo: Josh Benitez, (left) co-director of Common Ground Relief, is seen
digging irises with two volunteers from the Students Shoulder to Shoulder
organization during one of the June iris rescue events.
Because of the very wet weather Southeast Louisiana has been experiencing, LICI will likely not be able to get out to do any more iris rescues until the middle of September. "One more event should get all of the containers full at the LICI iris holding area", Salathe says.
Salathe said LICI is going to be doing some maintenance at the iris holding area over the next month and will also be coming up with a plan for where the irises will be planted this fall and winter. "We will also be working over the next few weeks on getting donations to fill out our budget for the year. We welcome any size donation to help with the overhead expenses that we incur with maintaining our iris holding area and putting on volunteer events," Salathe added.
New sites have contacted LICI about having irises planted there and they'd like to plant more irises at many of their ongoing projects. "We're hopeful the weather will cooperate during November to allow us to get some iris rescue projects done where we can dig one day and plant the irises in projects the next day, " he said.
LICI is an all-volunteer-run Louisiana registered non-profit "that aims to have a big impact at a small cost," Salathe says. "We have a PayPal account that will allow anyone to make a donation to us even if they do not have a PayPal account. A credit card will work. Any help that you can give will be greatly appreciated, " he said. If you would like to make a donation you can do so by clicking here: Donation
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative website can be found here: https://www.licisaveirises.com/
LICI's Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/licisaveirises
Their email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org