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Underwood visits Shepherdstown

September 05, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood toured the $135 million National Conservation Training Center nestled in the woods off Shepherd Grade Road on Friday afternoon.

The first class of 35 students started this week at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's complex, said spokesman Steve Chase. The students are FWS officials from state agencies across the United States, he said.

The center eventually hopes to draw thousands of students each year for courses ranging from a week to about four weeks, Chase said.

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Students will learn about the latest in conservation efforts through classes ranging from field work on the 540-acre complex to a computer lab with the latest in software and computers, Chase said.

"This place is unique," Chase said. "We think it will be the international center for conservation education."

Corporations also will be able to send their workers to the center for conservation training, Chase said.

That could mean in the future that government officials and corporate executives will have a better working relationship in protecting the environment, Chase said.

Underwood asked if the center has developed a relationship with nearby Shepherd College.

Center officials said they already have worked with interns from Shepherd and students from there have helped with educational video production work.

Underwood said he believes it could also lead to a curriculum change at Shepherd to draw the two closer together.

Students at the national training center stay in a 100-bed lodge.

Underwood said he was impressed by the way the complex blends in with the natural surroundings.

In many ways the stone, wood and block structure resembles an elegant resort, with a vaulted ceiling in one hall and a massive elk head confiscated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents from California poachers mounted high above a fireplace.

The facility will have an operating budget of about $13 million. It will have a staff of about 100 fish and wildlife service officials and about 50 or 60 workers with the lodging and food service.

More than 250 different conservation courses will be taught each year at the facility, Chase said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees 98 million acres and has 7,000 employees, Chase said.

The training center will be officially dedicated by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., on Oct. 18.

After touring the center, the governor went to Shepherd College to tour the new addition to its science building.

Most of the work at the $9.2 million addition is complete, but college officials said they ran out of funds before all of the work on the first floor of the additional space was completed.

College officials said they need about $600,000 more to finish the work. Underwood said he will see if funds can be found.

Underwood also announced plans to proceed with the construction of the Shepherdstown bypass.

The new road, nearly a mile in length, will connect W.Va. 45 and W.Va. 480 west of Shepherdstown.

Design work should be complete by early 1998 and the construction is planned for early 1999.

"This project will provide relief at the most congested intersection in Jefferson County," Underwood said.

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