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National Conservation Training Center

Completed in 1997, the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) north of Shepherdstown is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As the nation’s only full-service training complex for fish and wildlife professionals, the center offers courses on topics including conservation policies and regulations, applied landscape conservation, climate science, leadership and management, partnerships, and communications.

The campus, about 75 miles northwest of Washington, is set on 538 acres amid hardwood forests and meadows on the Potomac River. The center, which cost $143 million, includes more than 20 classrooms that can accommodate up to 300 people, a biology laboratory, a multimedia studio, a fitness center, a dining hall, and residential lodges. The buildings’ pitched roofs and weathered look are designed to blend with local farm structures.

The staff is made up of federal employees from the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Forest Service, as well as private contractors. The staff design and teach classes, schedule meetings at the center, and serve as liaisons between the center and the agencies they represent. Courses are taught on site, virtually, and at other places outside Shepherdstown.

As the physical and virtual home of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NCTC is used primarily by the agency’s more than 8,000 employees nationwide. It preserves the history of the agency through a museum, archives, and library with 9,000 circulating books and 20,000 scientific journals and databases. It also serves as a conference site where government wildlife specialists and land management employees, and representatives from environmental groups and private industry, can discuss issues relating to commerce and conservation. In January 2000, the center was the site of peace talks between Israel and Syria.

In 2022, the center signed a memorandum that allows the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society access to its full services, including courses that are now offered on Tribal lands. Since 2015, the Native Youth Climate Adaptation Leadership Congress has been held at the NCTC, bringing together high school and college youth from more than 90 Tribes.


  1. Cohn, Jeffrey P. Unique Facility Provides a Host of Benefits for Fish and Wildlife Pros and Others. Bioscience, (2000).