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March 12, 2023 New Orleans, La.

Sankofa Wetlands Park and Nature Trail's founder and chief executive officer Rashida Ferdinand's invited Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative's Gary Salathe to lead a tour of the blooming irises at an event held at the park for former New Orleans mayor and current president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. The event took place on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sankofa Wetlands Park in the lower ninth-ward neighborhood of New Orleans.

Photo: Attendees of the event begin to arrive. The leaders of numerous neighborhood non-profits and churches were invited to the special event.

Mr. Morial was the guest of honor at the event, which was to mark a milestone in the park's history and to thank everyone involved in the groups that have volunteered at Phase I and II of the beautiful wetlands park to bring it to its current state of completion. The park received funding last year to complete the final stage of construction. Construction is underway and almost finished for the entire length of the lagoon system.

Representatives of every community group in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood were invited, as well as all of the partner groups that are helping to make the park a reality. LICI's representative was just one of many other leaders from non-profits and organizations that supply volunteers to the park or take on projects there.

Photo: LICI's involvement at Sankofa Wetlands Park goes back to the first Louisiana iris planting there in December 2020. Volunteers from multiple groups are shown

planting irises at that event.

LICI has an important Louisiana iris restoration project at Sankofa. They are using the park as a location to have their rescued native I. giganticaerulea species irises multiply so they can be thinned out in the future to be used in marsh restoration projects. "Of course, a huge added benefit is that the irises are available for the public to see while they are blooming," LICI's Gary Salathe says. He added, "We're all about raising the awareness of this special native Louisiana plant with the public and people in positions of authority." That certainly happened this morning as Salathe took not only Marc Morial, but also a group of local dignitaries and non-profit leaders on a tour of the blooming irises at the park.

Photo: The event at Sankofa Wetlands Park coincided with the peak iris bloom. The blooming Louisiana irises put on a show for everyone that attended the event. The blooming irises shown in the photo are part of the original 2020 iris planting.

Photo: An alligator laying on a log near the irises put on quite the show for the

gathering at park on March 11th.

After the group saw a demonstration of plant and animal life in the waters of the park giving by the staff, Salathe was asked to give a tour of the blooming irises to the group. The tour was supposed to be brief and only for a short walk. Instead, Mr. Morial wanted to walk the entire length of the shoreline that held the blooming irises. He quizzed Salathe during the walk about the Louisiana iris and its place in the habitats of the marshes and swamps of Louisiana.

Photo: LICI's Gary Salathe, on left, is seen at the start of the tour of the blooming Louisiana irises at Sankofa Park at the event. Marc Morial is seen in the center of the photo wearing the gray T-shirt. Sankofa CEO, Rashida Ferdinand, is to the right of him.

At the end of a tour of the blooming irises, Mr. Morial thanked LICI and its volunteers for the work we have done at the park to create a repository of native Louisiana irises to be used in future restoration projects. Salathe said afterward that "This morning was a very meaningful event for all of the groups involved at Sankofa. It's hard to think of anything better than to have LICI's volunteers, and the other goups' volunteers, publicly recognized and thanked for all of the hard work they have done at the park. That happened this morning. We really appreciate it."

Information on Sankofa Wetlands Park and Nature Trail can be found here:

Information on the National Urban League can be found here:

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Updated: Mar 23

March 2, 2023 New Orleans, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative has released its 2023 interactive map of places to see native Louisiana irises in bloom. Go to the map by clicking HERE

You can zoom in on the map to find the exact location of each site. You can click on each location’s icon to be taken to a site page with details on the location and photos.

Each site is ranked from the best to almost best by LICI. Their ranking can be found on the goggle map page.

LICI's Gary Salathe says, "It is important to keep in mind that there may be more locations where native irises can be seen blooming that are more difficult to get to or are on private property. Our goal is to direct the public to areas where it is safe and easy to see this treasured native Louisiana plant while they are blooming, including the state wildflower, the I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris."

Louisiana irises this year have already begun to bloom in many of the locations shown on the map, which is about two weeks earlier than in previous years. The bloom typically lasts until the middle of April, with the peak bloom in the middle. This year, at some locations, the bloom may be over by the end of March. Each location can start and finish blooming at different times from the others.

LICI will be putting up regular Facebook postings of updates from their roving group of volunteers on how the bloom is coming along at each location. They hope to be able to give some advance notice of a least a week from when the peak bloom will be taking place at each location. Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative Facebook page can be found by clicking HERE.

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Updated: Feb 9

February 2, 2023 Mandeville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) added more Louisiana irises to their iris restoration project in Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville, La., on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. Volunteers from the New Orleans Chapter of the US Coast Guard's Chief Petty Officers Association worked to clear off brush, bushes, and vines to expand LICI's iris plantings at their multi-year project in bog near the beach in the park. The volunteers transformed the bog through their clearing work, adding five more cypress trees and planting about 150 Louisiana irises.

Volunteers are seen removing brush and debris from LICI's iris restoration site at Fontainebleau State Park on February 1st.

The I. giganticaerulea species of the Louisiana iris from the LICI's iris rescue program was used for the planting and all of their previous plantings at the bog.

LICI started the iris restoration project at the park in 2021 with the help of volunteers from several organizations. The purpose of the group's project at the park is to use a freshwater bog next to one of the covered picnic areas to have the irises grow and increase in numbers while at the same time helping to achieve the goals of the park and LICI to increase the public's awareness of this unique native plant. In future years the irises can be thinned out to use in other areas of the park to augment the wild irises already growing along trails in swampy areas of the park.

A volunteer from the US Coast Guard's Chief Petty Officers Association is shown planting Louisiana irises at Fontainebleau State Park on February 1st.

"The iris bog at the park went under 30" of storm surge within one year from Hurricanes Zeta and Ida without harming the irises. We decided that with the support of the park manager, we would like to expand the iris planting in the bog," LICI's Gary Salathe said. He added that the volunteers' work on February 1st helped accomplish this goal. The interim park manager, Troy Carney, plans to remove some piles of dirt from the Hurricane Ida clean-up deposited along the edge of the bog near the picnic pavilion area within the next week. "We have committed to coming back once that work is completed to hand clear the last small area of bushes and plant more cypress trees and some irises," Salathe says.

A volunteer is shown next to a bald cypress tree she just finished planting as part of the work done on February 1st.

Volunteers from the US Coast Guard's Chief Petty Officers Association are shown after the volunteer event held at the iris bog in Fontainebleau State Park

on February 1st.

The iris bog in Fontainebleau State Park is shown after the work is finished.

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