Update on COVID-19 and TPE Burns

To all TPE members, leaders and friends,

As of today, both Illinois and Wisconsin have now issued statewide orders limiting travel and gatherings of all citizens outside of their homes to essential activities and jobs only. After a careful review of the Wisconsin order, we have concluded that we should immediately halt the current TPE burn season (in at least both of these two states) in order to do our part to help "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our most vulnerable community members. We recommend that our Minnesota members consider the same at this point, and certainly if similar orders are issued there.

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COVID-19 and The Prairie Enthusiasts

To all TPE members, leaders and friends,

All of us, including individuals, families, and community organizations like TPE, need to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic. TPE’s chapters host a significant number of community gatherings, including burns, work parties, field trips, and other educational events, as well as chapter and committee meetings. Much of our membership is also part of the over 60-year-old high risk population. As an organization we thus need to consider our response carefully.

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32 Annual Conference and Banquet

     Nearly 260 prairie enthusiasts gathered Feb. 29 on a beautiful leap-year day at UW-Platteville campus for the 32nd annual TPE Conference and Banquet.

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Timber Rattlesnakes: Vanishing Blufflands Icon

Historically significant and emblematic of the wildness that once existed along the towering bluffs of the Mississippi River, the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) continues to survive in isolated pockets. Revered and respected by Native Americans, with some tribes calling it “Grandfather,” it was vilified by European settlers and now only thrives in the most remote mountain ranges of the Eastern states.

Photo: Mother and her litter at a birthing rookery. The neonates (newborn snakes) are grayish and tucked in and around their mother. Photo by Brian Bielema 

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A Major Transition for The Prairie Enthusiasts

It is with mixed emotions that we report on March 1 the TPE Board of Directors decided to begin a nationwide search for a new Executive Director to replace Chris Kirkpatrick. Chris has graciously agreed to work with us on the transition process until March 31. The Executive Committee of the Board (Jerry Newman, Alice Mirk, Jim Rogala, and me) is selecting a search consultant and will oversee the process (with the help of a few other members) as a Transition Task Force until a new Executive Director begins work. The Executive Committee has asked me to assume the additional role of Acting Executive Director to manage the staff and operations of TPE during the transition, and I have accepted that task.

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Hey prairie people!

By Pam Richards

Last summer a variety of prairies were discovered at Lake Carroll - a four-season recreational community between Lanark and Pearl City, Ill.  Carroll County is the southern-most region of the TPE-monitored areas.  These finds included a remnant, a planted prairie, and golf course prairies.  Both the remnant and planted prairies were featured in two local news mediums.             

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Member Profile: Tom & Kathie Brock

What do TPE member and emeritus professor Tom Brock have in common with rock-n-roll star Steve Miller? In addition to never hearing of the other, they both were awarded Honorary Doctorate degrees from UW-Madison in May.

Tom received the degree for his pioneering work on thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria he had isolated and characterized from the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. He was also recognized for the work he and his wife Kathie Brock did in the restoration of their property, Pleasant Valley Conservancy (PVC). In a relatively small area (140 acres) they have restored several ecotypes- wetland, prairies, oak savanna and oak woods.

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A Conference to Address Environmental Change

We watched the world strike for action on climate change last month. As we work for conserving prairie and savanna ecosystems in the region, support is growing for taking better care of our global ecosystem.

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Many Rivers Partners with Educators

By Jim Vonderharr

Many Rivers Chapter has recently started partnerships with several educational entities. We were contacted in the spring of 2017 by Amber Gremmels, a middle school science teacher in New Ulm, Minn. The New Ulm School District has two vacant residential lots next to it that were just being mowed. She envisioned converting one of them to a prairie, and making it a learning experience for students.

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Milkweed for Monarchs '19

This past winter the monarch butterfly populations overwintering in northern Mexico increased significantly for the first time in recent years. The butterflies used over 6 hectares of land at their winter roosting sites. This is significant, as the goal of the Mid-American Monarch Conservation Strategy is to increase the average to around 6 hectares of use each year. A one year increase does not significantly increase the overall average. Implementing the conservation strategy to increase milkweed populations by billions of stems over the next decades is the single biggest driver to help sustain the monarch populations. Hopefully this strategy will keep the monarch butterfly from becoming listed under the Endangered Species Act.

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