TPE has set in place new guidelines to enable us to begin holding our important field trips and work parties going forward while protecting our safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 2020 field trip at the oak barrens near TPE’s Rattlesnake Ridge preserve in Arena, WI.  Photo by Scott Fulton

Like all of us, we at TPE are learning how to adapt to the new reality of COVID-19. One of the major impacts for us is on our field trips and work parties. These events are critical to our work of caring for the land, building our human community, and reaching out to engage others in our mission. We have had to give careful thought to how to safely conduct TPE field trips, work parties, and other events while protecting the safety of our members and public health.

The TPE staff and board have worked together to develop and approve a new policy and guidelines for safely conducting our events while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. In doing this, we recognized the need to clearly identify who is responsible for making decisions and communicating with our leaders and members so that we can quickly modify our approach as the situation changes.

The core of the policy is a Current TPE Event COVID-19 Guidelines document which is written by the Executive Director, approved by the Executive Committee of the Board, and reviewed at least monthly for changes in the situation. The Current Guidelines covers all types of TPE events (field trips, work parties, prescribed burns, workshops, lectures, courses, social events, meetings, and conferences) and is based on the current orders and public health recommendations from the CDC and our three states (WI, MN and IL). The Current Guidelines is available on the COVID-19 page on the TPE website.

The initial Current Guidelines (May 26, 2020) allow field trips and work parties to proceed under the following conditions:

  • Events must be held outdoors (indoor events are still cancelled or postponed).
  • No more than 10 attendees total (including both event leaders and participants).
  • No one should attend who has a fever or other symptoms, or an active COVID-19 infection.
  • All leaders and participants should always stay at least 6 feet apart (except for members of the same household).
  • Wearing a face mask to protect others is highly recommended when safe distancing is difficult.
  • Everyone should cough or sneeze away from others and cover themselves appropriately.
  • Avoid exchanging physical objects (e.g. pens and papers, tools, equipment, etc.). Where this is not possible, objects should be carefully sanitized before and after use.
  • Avoid sharing vehicles during an event, except between members of the same households.

Because we will be limiting attendance at our events, we have decided to institute pre-registration. You can do this by emailing or phoning the event leader, or (better yet) by registering online at the Events page of the TPE website. We will need at least an email address or phone number for each attendee so that we can contact you is anything changes. The online event listing will also include a description of the event itself, contact information for the event leader, and a Google Maps link for the event location.

All of this is a significant change for those of you planning to lead events. You will need to familiarize yourself with the Current Guidelines and will be responsible for insuring that those who attend the event comply with the social distancing rules. We have prepared a TPE COVID-19 Event Leader Guide to assist you, which is also available on the COVID-19 page. Please contact Diane Hills, the new TPE Outreach and Development Coordinator (, (608) 239-4699) for more information or assistance with publicizing your event.

We ask that those of you who either lead or attend events to please cooperate with the new Current Guidelines so that our field trips and work parties can be safe for everyone. We know that it’s a pain to wear masks and hard to remember to stay sufficiently separated. Frankly, none of us enjoy these rules at all! But this is truly the only way that we can continue to do the work needed to care for the natural communities we love and to share them with others while COVID-19 is still with us. Getting back out again on the prairies and savannas with our TPE friends will make it worthwhile!