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from LICI


May 20, 2023 Laplace, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) has completed five Louisiana iris rescues to assemble the irises needed for planting into the Nicholls State University's Wetlands Project. LICI signed onto the project at the Nicholls Farm earlier this year when construction of the project was nearing completion. There are two irises planting events scheduled at the farm for later this month when the irises will be planted.

Photo: The Nicholls State Farm Wetlands Project as seen on May 6, 2023.

The wetlands project is a joint effort between Nicholls State University and Ducks Unlimited. The plan is to pump water from nearby Bayou Folse into one end of the wetlands and have then have plants within the wetlands remove an overabundance of nutrients in the water. The bayou is really just a drainage canal at that upstream location. It drains nearby residential areas - many using individual septic tanks for sewerage treatment, some farmland and sugar cane fields (heavy fertilizer users), and some urban run-off from the town. Once the nutrients are reduced, water from the wetlands will be returned to the bayou and the process will then be repeated. The overall goal is to use it as a demonstration project to show how nutrients can be removed from rivers and creeks upstream in the Mississippi River watershed before they flow into the river. This will help reduce the size of the algae bloom each year in the Gulf of Mexico. A secondary goal is to use the wetlands as a wild duck habitat.

LICI was invited to partner in the project so it could be used as a home for its rescued irises. Louisiana irises remove huge amounts of nutrients from the water and soil in their swamps. The goal is to plant thousands of irises into the project by the end of this year, according to the LICI's Gary Salathe.

To get the irises for the Nicholls Farm project, LICI worked with two other non-profits that have supported their past efforts. Common Ground Relief scheduled an iris rescue with some students they were hosting for a five-day service visit to New Orleans. Limitless Vistas/ Gulf Corps offered to help by doing four iris rescues with their job-training crew.

Photo: Some of the twenty students for The College School in St. Louis, MO, are seen on an iris rescue organized by Common Ground Relief.

Common Ground Relief had an eighth-grade school group in from St. Louis, Missouri, from The College School for a week of service activities in late April. They ended up rescuing over 2,800 irises from a site west of New Orleans that LICI has been working to remove irises during the last few years.

Photo: Part of the Limitless Vistas/ Gulf Corps crew is shown at one of four iris rescues they did during the month of May to help gather the irises needed for the wetlands project.

LICI organized four iris rescues from the same site during the first part of May with Limitless Vistas/ Gulf Corps to get enough irises for the planned wetlands plantings during the last week of May. They collected a total of 3,000 irises.

"We really appreciate the help we received from these two groups to make sure we get off to a great start planting irises into this new project at Nicholls Farm," Salathe says.


May 14, 2023 Madisonville, La.

The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) had accepted invitations from three organizations just after the start of 2023 to hold open an iris information booth at their events this spring. The last of the three events was held yesterday, May 13, 2023.

LICI participated in the Bayou Gardens Open House event put on by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on the grounds of their Lacombe, La. headquarters on February 25th. On Saturday, April 15th, LICI held open an iris information canopy at the Friends of the Palmetto Island State Park's Stir the Pot fundraising event in Vermilion Parish, La. LICI's third information canopy was held open at the Explore Nature event held by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative in Denham Springs, La. yesterday.

One of the US Fish & Wildlife Service social media notices featured the Louisiana iris.

The Bayou Gardens Open House event was held at the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Lacombe, La. headquarters complex for their Southeast Louisiana refuges. The event's theme was gardening with wildflowers and other plants to help pollinators and wildlife. LICI's exhibit explained how the wild native Louisiana irises in the swamps and the hybrid Louisiana iris cultivars in home gardens are important pollinator plants for bumblebees and hummingbirds. Their booth featured LICI's Mike Glaspell's photos of hummingbirds and bumblebees feeding on the irises at the Lockport, La. boardwalk. "Mike helped us hold the booth open so he would be there in person to answer any questions about his photography or the Lockport boardwalk," says LICI's Gary Salathe.

LICI's informational booth at the Bayou Gardens Open House event highlighted photos of hummingbirds, insects, and bees feeding on blooming Louisiana irises. The photos were taken by Mike Glaspell, who is one of LICI's volunteers at three of its iris restoration

projects. Mike's hummingbird photos have become well-known and

appreciated among birding hobbyists.

Two LICI representatives and one of its volunteers met with a volunteer with Friends of Palmetto Island State Park along with their president at the boardwalk in Palmetto Island State Park on April 5, 2023. The purpose of the meeting was to review the history of the I. nelsonii Louisiana iris species that were planted at the boardwalk in 2011 and the work that the Friends group has done to try and maintain the planting. By the end of the meeting, LICI agreed to take on a project to increase the number of I. nelsonii irises growing there and to take over the maintenance of the project. After the meeting, the president of the Friends group invited LICI to hold open an information booth at their Stir the Pot annual fundraiser that was going to take place in the park the following Saturday. "We readily agreed since it would give us a chance to meet members of the Friends group and the local community," LICI's president, Gary Salathe said.

The Facebook posting for the 2023 Friends of Palmetto Island State Park Stir the Pot event is shown above. The annual event is the main fundraiser for the Friends group. This event on April 15th was going to be the first one held since the COVID 19 pandemic

kept it from being put on for the last two years.

LICI's volunteer manning the info booth at the event said he talked to many people about Louisiana irises and the I. nelsonii planting at the park's boardwalk and how LICI will be helping out with it. Some of the people visiting the booth offered to help with the effort.

Very heavy rain just after the start of the 2023 Friends of Palmetto Island State Park Stir the Pot event on April 15th reduced the number of people attending the event.

However, attendance rebounded once the rain ended.

LICI was invited to have an information booth at the 2023 Explore Nature Event in Denham Springs, La. held on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The event is put on each year by the Purple Martin Conservation Initiative (PMCI).

The Explore Nature event focuses on nature, conservation, and restoration. It is a way for the public to learn how to become a part of the growing effort to restore Louisiana's native habitats and wildlife. Krista Adams, president of PMCI, says, "It's an opportunity to learn how to become engaged in a wide range of things, from volunteering for marsh restoration projects, planting a pollinator garden, providing safe housing and food for our native birds or other activities to conserve our resources."

Some of the Explore Nature marketing feature a photo that was taken by Mike Glaspell

of a hummingbird feeding on an iris.

The event also included a guided bird walk, native plant and gardening information, live reptiles and birds, activities and face painting. Three LICI volunteers came out to the event to hold the LICI booth open.

"We welcome the opportunity these types of events gives us to meet and talk to the public about our work to conserve and restore our native Louisiana irises out in the swamps and marshes," Salathe says about LICI's willingness to hold open booths at events and festivals. "We try to do about four per year. Combined with having one of our volunteers appear as a guest speaker at local organizations' meetings, it's a great way for us to get the word out about what we do and to attract more volunteers," Salathe sums up.


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.

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