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Complex is a big hit

December 12, 2000

Complex is a big hit



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Wildlife conferenceSHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The estimated 200 international wildlife experts who are attending a conference here to study global trade of wild animals is an example of the increasing popularity of a new federal training center here, officials said.

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Not since the peace talks between Syria and Israel earlier this year has such a large, distinguished group met at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center, said center spokesman Steve Chase.

About 600 people coverged on the town last January for the peace talks, which were held at the training center and the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center near Shepherdstown.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife facility, a sprawling complex with lecture halls, laboratories, dormitories and administration facilities, is primarily designed to train researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chase said.

But center officials wanted to make their training available to as many organizations and people as they can, Chase said.

The center has opened its training programs to state wildlife management agencies from North Carolina and West Virginia and has also offered training to corporations interested in wildlife management, Chase said.

The popularity of the center has grown to the point that sometimes there is little room for all the courses that are taught, Chase said. At times, the center's gym has had to be converted for training programs, Chase said.

Some groups have been turned away because there is not enough room, Chase said.

"That's really a new phenomenon over the last six to eight months," Chase said.

To handle the growth, the training center is getting ready to build a fourth dormitory that will hold 75 people, Chase said.

That expansion, which is expected to be completed by 2003, should give the center plenty of room to handle demands in coming years, Chase said.

Since last Thursday, about 200 representatives from at least 19 countries have been meeting at the training center along Shepherd Grade Road to discuss how to control international trade of wild animals and plants.

The representatives are responsible for enforcing a treaty signed in 1973 in Washington that controls international trade of protected species, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Pat Fisher.

The representatives will meet through Thursday to review a wide range of issues including trade of animals used in traditional medicines, trade of turtles in Southeast Asia, shark trade, seahorse conservation, medicinal plant trade, orchid trade and artificial propagation of timber.

Much of the discussion Tuesday revolved around sturgeon, a large food fish that is also a source for caviar. Worldwide sturgeon populations are being threatened by over-harvesting and construction of river dams that interrupt spawning patterns of the fish, said Shelia S. Einsweiler, senior wildlife inspector for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Representatives from countries like Iran, Hungary and the United States on Tuesday reported information relating to sturgeon populations and threats to the species in their respective countries.

The information was being relayed to representatives who are responsible for overseeing a treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

It will be up to the representatives to determine if any changes need to be made, Einsweiler said.

"I have no idea what they will come up with for sturgeon," she said.

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