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Updated: Feb 27

February 11, 2022 Grand Isle, La

Two representatives of the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) participated in a tour of Grand Isle on Friday, February 11, 2022 organized by a group that is interested in increasing the tourist industry there by finding places that would attract eco-tourist. Eco-tourism is a fast growing part of the tourist industry nationally and would help to augment Grand Isle’s fishing and beach tourist attractions.

The participants of the tour from the New Orleans area met in the town of Jean Lafitte where they boarded a Jefferson Parish sheriff's office boat that was arranged to take them to Grand Isle.

LICI board of directors members, Paul Christensen and Gary Salathe, Jefferson Parish at-large Councilman, Ricky Templet, and representatives of The Nature Conservancy, LSU Sea Grant, Grand Isle Garden Club (Restore Grand Isle) and the Jefferson Parish Visitor’s Bureau took part in the tour. Melinda Bourgeois, owner of Travel Central - a travel agency, and an owner of a vacation home in Grand Isle, worked with Councilman's Templet office to organize the trip.

Jefferson parish councilman, Ricky Templet is seen talking with the organizer of the trip, Melinda Bourgeois.

The centerpiece of the effort to attract eco-tourist is the Nature Conservancy's Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve on Grand Isle. This 35 acre live oak tree grove is the last of what once covered the entire island. It 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 group is shown walking on the Nature Conservancy's Gilletta Tract of the Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve on Grand Isle.

LICI was invited to participate in the trip to Grand Isle because of the iris restoration project we have underway on the Gilletta Tract of the Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve. It received some national attention within the Nature Conservancy's newsletter and Facebook page this past spring and is now being seen as a key tourist draw during late March and early April as the irises bloom.

Grand Isle Garden Club president, Ronnie Sampey and LICI's Paul Christensen, is seen looking over some of the irises in LICI's project on the Nature Conservancy's Gilletta Tract of the Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve.

LICI also heavily publicized this fresh water bog and its blooming irises this past spring. They have since added 1,400 more irises, so expectations are high for the iris bloom this year and the people it may bring to Grand Isle to see it.

Louisiana irises in LICI's iris restoration project are shown on the Nature Conservancy's Gilletta Tract of the Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve. The irises planted in 2019 and 2020 all survived Hurricanes Zeta and Ida.

LICI is also part of a group that is working on plans for a connecting path through all of Grand Isle Nature Conservancy's tracts of land, including installing signage.

The Nature Conservancy's Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve is highlighted on the informational display.

LICI's Gary Salathe looks over the future site of the Grand Isle Garden Club's tree and plant nursery with club president, Ronnie Sampey. FEMA will be tearing down the house and clearing the land. The nursery will be installed once that is completed.

LICI's Gary Salathe said, "We are excited that our lowly irises may play a key role in the future to help Grand Isle recover from the serious set-back of Hurricane Ida, which severely impacted the western half of the island." He added that LICI has plans to add another 1,500 irises this year to the Gilletta Tract in partnership with the Grand Isle Garden Club.

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Updated: Feb 22

January 22, 2022 New Orleans, La.

Two New Orleans TV stations did interviews with partners and volunteers of Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative's (LICI) project rehabilitating one of only two ridge forest remaining in south Louisiana. LICI's multi-year project is at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans East. The group is organizing volunteers to eradicate the invasive Chinese Tallow tree species, uncover native trees that other groups planted during the last few years from competing vegetation and then replant any areas needed with Live Oak, American Elm and Bald Cypress trees.

Common Ground Relief, a local non-profit involved in marsh restoration projects and inner-city COVID pandemic relief initiatives, has partnered with LICI to supply the trees and some of the volunteers for the project.

The project began with its Chinese Tallow tree eradication in February of 2021 with a small number of volunteers spending one morning each week working at the refuge. In November other volunteers joined in as the tree planting phase of the project began for the winter months.

Charlotte Clarke (on right), executive Director of Common Ground Relief, is seen being interviewed by Lee Southwick of WDSU at the Bayou Sauvage refuge on January 12, 2022.

The visual effect of the volunteers' work killing the tallow trees at the Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge began being seen over the last few months by refuge visitors, so word started spreading about the project. Two local TV stations, WDSU and Fox 8 News, each became interested in the story and asked to do an interview with those involved.

WDSU's January 12th on-site interview of Charlotte Clarke, executive Director of Common Ground Relief, and be found here:

Fox 8's January 17th interview with three of the volunteers can be found here:

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Updated: Feb 18

January 20, 2022 Lockport, La.

Volunteers from the Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) have begun what they hope will be a multi-year cypress tree planting project at the Lockport, La. Elevated Wetlands Boardwalk. The new tree planting initiative is in response to the huge number of trees that were blown over during Hurricane Ida's August 29, 2021 landfall along the coast of south-central Louisiana. The storm passed directly over Lockport.

This aerial photo of the Lockport boardwalk taken this winter shows the huge number of trees that were blown over when Hurricane Ida did a direct hit on the area. Fortunately, not many of the large cypress trees were effected. Photo courtesy of Henry Cancienne.

The cypress tree planting took place on January 19th. This first LICI tree planting was a first small step toward what is hoped with be a couple of hundred trees planted later in 2022. The trees were donated by Common Ground Relief.

The cypress trees were planted along the edge of openings where Louisiana irises were planted in late 2021. LICI volunteers, left to right, Connie Adams, Mike Glaspell and Gary Salathe did the tree planting. They were assisted on the boardwalk by Henry Cancienne. Photo courtesy of Henry Cancienne.

A bald eagle sat in a nearby tree and watched the group work. Photo courtesy of Henry Cancienne.

"Each new forest requires that the first tree gets planted, no matter how small it is," said LICI's Gary Salathe. The group planted twenty-one cypress trees.

As the volunteers went out away from the boardwalk they discovered many more openings in the swamp that could use some new trees being planted within them. The plans are for LICI and Common Ground Relief to try and located a grant opportunity to purchase significantly more trees for replanting these areas next winter.

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