May 10, 2023 New Orleans, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has completed its spring 2023 Monday work mornings at the Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge today. A small but dedicated group of volunteers have met at the refuge each Monday morning since March to work at clearing brush, bushes, and Chinese tallow trees from around young native trees planted in recent years to reforest the refuge's ridge forest in its boardwalk area. During the last six weeks, a crew from Limitless Vista, a local job training non-profit associated with Gulf Corps, joined them.
Photo: Some volunteers and Limitless Vistas workers are shown getting ready to start work during a March 27, 2023 Monday work morning at the Bayou Sauvage refuge.
LICI’s Monday morning volunteer work crew has killed over 5,000 Chinese tallow trees of all sizes in the ridge forest at the boardwalk during the last 2 1/2 years to open up areas for native trees to be planted or to clear around native trees that were planted by other volunteers either last winter or in previous years. The native trees were faced with either stunted growth or dying from being overshadowed and crowded out by the brush and the Chinese tallow invasive tree species. This is the third year that LICI has organized Monday work mornings for this purpose.
Photo: Two Limitless Vistas workers are shown clearing weeds, vines, and brush from around the boardwalk at the Bayou Sauvage refuge on one of the Monday workdays. On some Mondays, they did general maintenance at the boardwalk while others worked on clearing brush and Chinese tallow trees from around the native trees.
Unlike previous years, the volunteers focused on killing only young tallow trees 1 ½” in diameter or smaller this spring. Partially because of their work's impact from previous years, the US Fish & Wildlife Service staff acquired funding to hire a commercial Chinese tallow eradication company to work the entire refuge during this summer. However, the contractor will only be killing larger trees over 1 ½” in diameter.
Photo: This photo from a 2021 Monday work morning at the Bayou Sauvage refuge shows a volunteer using the hack and squirt method of applying a herbicide to a Chinese tallow tree.
Hack-and-squirt herbicide applications are one of the least expensive manual herbicide application methods. This method introduces the herbicide into the stem using spaced cuts made at a convenient height, below the last live branch, around the trunk. Using a hatchet or similar device, frill cuts or downward-angled incisions are made evenly spaced around the stem, one per inch of diameter. This is the method to be used by the contractor and is the same method the volunteers used, which is recognized within the forestry industry as the most efficient way to kill Chinese tallow trees if they are growing among other trees that are to remain.
Photo: As the volunteers would clear the brush from around native trees that had been planted in previous years, in many cases they would need to install a nutria guard around the tree. The volunteers have discovered that once the brush has been cleared around a tree, it becomes accessible for deer to scrap the tree to mark its territory. This damages the tree and sometimes will kill it. The deer prefer the native trees and will leave the Chinese tallow trees alone.
The Monday morning crew also used loopers to cut back other types of bushes that were negatively impacting the young native trees that had been planted.
Photo: The group of volunteers that came out on the last day of the 2023 spring Monday work mornings is shown in the photo. Typically, each Monday could have a different mix of volunteers come out since it was difficult for most of them to come every Monday.
The plan is for LICI to start back up this fall once the weather cools. The volunteers will not only continue work clearing around native trees that have been planted but also open up new areas for tree plantings that LICI has planned with their tree planting project partners, Common Ground Relief, this winter.