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Winter 2022 Tree Planting Project Starts up at the Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge

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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