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from LICI


Updated: Dec 4, 2022

December 3, 2022 Des Allemands, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) made contact with a landowner along Hwy 90 in the town of Des Allemands, LA two years ago when they noticed he had put his family's land up for sale. They had been admiring the Louisiana irises each year when they bloomed that were growing in sections of the wet area in front of the property. The landowner's son had bush-hogged the ditch/wet area each year during the dry season. Because of this, it has never been sprayed with a herbicide by the state highway department. It was the only stretch of highway not sprayed, so the area had become a mini-wetland bog full of native swamp plants, including the Louisiana iris.

Photo: The Louisiana irises in bloom within the wet area in front of the Hwy 90 properties near Des Allemands, LA in April of 2021.

The landowner's son stopped maintaining the wet area once the property was put up for sale. The family had already sold a couple of parcels they created from the tract of land, and those new owners were not maintaining the wet area either. He told LICI that he believed it was only a question of time before the state would begin spraying the entire wet area to keep the drainage open along the highway. He encouraged them to get the irises out and relocate them to a safer location.

Photo: LICI volunteers digging irises from the Hwy 90 wet area during an iris rescue on July 10, 2021.

"Over the last two years, we have held at least three iris rescues at the property that has netted about 3,500 I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris," LICI's Gary Salathe says. This species of the Louisiana iris is the native wild iris found in that area.

Then in mid-November, the worse fears of the group were realized when the state Highway department sprayed the wet area from one end to the other with a herbicide. About 90% of the Louisiana irises that were in the parcels that LICI had not been able to rescue the irises yet were sprayed.

Photo: The sprayed wet area as seen on December 3, 2022 when one of LICI's volunteers was passing by the property and discovered they had been sprayed with a herbicide.

Salathe said, 'We are trying to stay focused on the positive; we'd like to thank our many volunteers who came out and worked hard to save the irises we rescued from this property during our three rescues. We'd also like to thank the volunteers who helped plant some of them at our iris-holding area and then maintained them. Then there are the volunteers that got down in the muck and planted the rescued irises from this property into their new homes at area refuges and nature preserves. Thank you. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support and encouragement of the landowner. Thank you very much."

Photo: A close-up view of some of the Louisiana irises sprayed recently in a roadside wet area where LICI has been working to remove them.

Salathe continued, "It is a wonderful thing that all of these volunteers have done to get out a total of 3,500 irises that we "rescued" from this property. That is something to be proud of. All of those irises would have been sprayed 1 1/2 weeks ago if we hadn't rescued them. Instead, they were planted at the Lockport, LA boardwalk, the Grand Isle, LA Nature Conservancy boardwalk, the Cajun Coast Visitor's Center in Morgan City, LA, and the Bayou Sauvage refuge in New Orleans, LA where they are all living life large!" He said it is a "bittersweet win that we got most of the irises out. Even though we did not get them all, we'll still take the win. This is what we do."

Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at the Cajun Coast Visitor's Center in Morgan City, La. during April of 2022.

Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at the Lockport, La. Wetlands Elevated board in April of 2022.

Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at The Nature Conservancy boardwalk in Grand Isle, La. in April of 2022.

Photo: Some of the irises rescued from the Hwy 90 property are shown blooming at the Bayou Sauvage National Urban Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans, La. in April of 2021.

"It is easy to get lulled into complacency when a few years go by, and nothing happens at a site where it's obvious that the irises are threatened. This is a lesson we already know and now have just been reminded of; you need to get those irises out as soon as you can," Salathe sums up.

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Updated: Jan 29

November 20, 2022 Mandeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) held a Louisiana iris planting event at the Pelican Park Recreation District #1 located near Mandeville, LA. on November 19th. This was the second planting event LICI held there since the project began in late 2021. Even though it was a cold, damp morning with rain threatening, over 30 volunteers came out to plant the estimated 800 irises.

Pelican Park is a taxpayer-supported park near Fontainebleau State Park and the Northlake Nature Center. It is 550 acres in size and consists of 32 athletic fields, a 3-court gym, a 4-court gym, the 46,000 square foot multi-purpose Castine Center, paved roads, a walking trail, dog park, batting skate park, sand volleyball courts, 18 hole disc golf course, and parking for over 1,700 vehicles.

LICI was contacted in August of 2021 by Louisette Scott, Environmental Educator for Pelican Park, about finding locations on their property to plant Louisiana irises. Part of Louisette's responsibilities is to manage and increase the number of native plants growing within the park. An agreement was quickly reached that allowed LICI to use a low detention area and a nearby long linear detention area as the location for the irises to be planted.

The iris planting site is near the park's Gold and Silver Complexes parking lots within a portion of the disc golf course.

LICI currently has six locations in public places, including Pelican Park, where they plant rescued irises as a place for them to multiply on their own without any maintenance being needed. The landowners in each of the six locations have agreed to allow LICI access to the irises to thin them out in future years to use on other iris restoration projects. "This gets the irises out of harm's way where they are currently growing in locations where they are threatened with destruction and "parks" them in a protected location where we can have future access to them. Its a win/win deal for all involved, is the way we see it", says Gary Salathe, a board of directors member of LICI and the lead for them on the Pelican Park project.

The six locations are in addition to LICI's usual public planting sites at area wildlife refuges, and nature preserves where they plant the irises in their natural habitat.

The linear detention area is shown next to the Silver Complex parking area before the grass and weeds were cut in early September.

The blooming irises will be in view to the public, which furthers LICI's goal of raising awareness of this native Louisiana plant. "Over 1 million visitors per year use the park. On any given weekend day there could be as many as 12,000 people attending various organized sporting events", Executive Director of the park, Margie Lewis says.

Some irises were planted as a test in the long detention area at Pelican Park in January 2022. To everyone's surprise, many of them bloomed just three months later, as shown in the photo.

The plan was for the park's maintenance crews to cut the grass twice yearly in the detention areas while the irises are dormant from July to early September. The plan worked well at the long detention area this summer, but the crews were too concerned about hurting the irises in the main detention area, so it was not cut. "That was unfortunate because we ended up having to cut it with hand-held weed-eaters with bush blades just before our November planting event", LICI's Gary Salathe says. He added that he now has a direct line of communication with the grounds crew manager and they'll work together on the cutting schedule next year.

Volunteers from LICI cut the grass in the main planting area using a weed-eater with a brush blade a week before the November 19th iris planting.

The I. giganticaerulea species iris from the LICI iris rescue program was used for the planting on November 19th at Pelican Park.

The irises planted during the November 19th event came from LICI's iris rescue program. Many of the irises were rescued last March and have been growing at LICI's iris holding area in New Orleans to strengthen up for transplanting this autumn.

Volunteers begin to arrive for the iris planting on November 19th.

Although there were many positive responses to the Facebook event posting, it was uncertain how many people would actually come out to help. The weather forecast called for a cold drizzly rain to begin at noon, but the radar showed that the rain could arrive much earlier. The event was scheduled for 9 AM until noon.

Volunteers begin planting the trailer full of irises at the main planting site in the larger detention area.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised when over 30 volunteers showed up ready to work. The group included members of multiple Boy Scout Troops, one member of a Girl Scout Troop, and several students from Southeastern University. Members of the St. Tammany Master Gardeners Association helped out as did some of LICI's volunteers, along with members of the public.

The volunteers were from all age groups.

Everyone worked hard and finished up a little early, which worked out well because it started to drizzle just as everyone was leaving.

LICI's Salathe says, "We are very appreciative of all of the hard work that went into making this iris planting possible, from the volunteers that rescued the irises, the volunteers that maintained the irises over the last eight months, and to the volunteers on the 19th that got them all planted."

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Updated: Dec 4, 2022

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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