Included was the official opening of the new 250-seat Robert C. Byrd Auditorium at the center. That was the second building dedicated in Shepherdstown in the name of the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. On Oct. 11 Byrd dedicated the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center at Shepherd College.
Byrd has been credited with bringing in more than $1 billion in federal building projects to West Virginia. Among them in the Eastern Panhandle are the U. S. Coast Guard Operations Systems Center, major expansions to Internal Revenue facilities, improvements at Shepherd College and at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
He secured the first funds for the training center in 1990 when Congress authorized $4.9 million for planning, design and land acquisition.
The 375,000 square-foot complex spread over more than 540 acres of what was once the farm of Jesse Hendrix, will offer more than 200 courses for hundreds of professional conservationists and environmentalists from government, education and business, center officials said.
More than 400 people attended the invitation-only dedication ceremony Saturday morning. The center was open to the public in the afternoon.
The campus consists of two components, the instructional campus and the Commons. An open footbridge links them. The Commons holds the dining hall and lounge areas.
Three lodges named after late, famous conservationists Aldo Leopold, J.N. "Ding" Darling and Rachel Carson, can sleep up to 150 students.
There is a day care center, physical training facility and five miles of footpaths.
The architecture is modeled after farm buildings in the area, including the 200-year-old Hendrix farm which remains on the property. Building materials include textured concrete, fieldstone, brick and wood, all designed to blend in with the natural landscape."This is a place were conservation and resource management professionals from all sectors can come together to learn new techniques, share different perspectives, discuss and debate difficult natural resource issues and search for common ground and common sense solutions," Byrd said.
Babbitt said the Clinton Administration gives the training center a high priority because of the complexity of its task - "to balance the conservation of God's creation with the mandate of stewardship and use.