NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently piloted a new class focusing on environmental stewardship at J. Percy Priest Lake that equipped 28 students with the basics for land and water management.

Michael Vissichelli, operations program manager with the North Atlantic Division and a course instructor, shared expertise with special status species, policy and regulations, fisheries management, and invasive species and wetlands. He said the class provided employees with the environmental resources that are available for them as they perform their duties.

"The primary value is that this training now provides a framework to teach USACE environmental stewards a consistent approach to monitoring, managing and sustaining our lands and waters," Vissichelli said.

The students attended the class Jan. 29-31, 2019. They ranged from park rangers with less than a month of experience to regulatory personnel with more than 16 years of experience. Instructors representing the district, division, and headquarters levels shared expertise and their unique perspectives as subject matter experts in their fields.

Class instruction illustrated how difficult it is for employees to understand the consequences that decisions and actions may have on the environment at a local, regional, and national scale.

Instructors shared insight on master plans, shoreline management plans, fish and wildlife, forestry, special status species, invasive species, out grants, and the boundary line during the three-day class.

Jeremy Crossland, program manager for Land Use and Natural Resources at USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C., said the course centered on natural resource management and is the first to provide field exercises.

Nashville District Park Rangers Ben MacIntyre and Dylon Anderson facilitated several field exercises, which included marking the boundary line, identifying common encroachments, combatting invasive species and restoring the ecosystem.

"I think the overall impression was good," Anderson said about his training session on the shoreline of J. Percy Priest Lake near the Cook Recreation Area. "We do it (boundary line) different here in the Nashville District compared to other districts. We use the same physical markings, but use different methods to achieve it."

MacIntyre shared his expertise with invasive plant management and reestablishing native plants near the J. Percy Priest Lake Visitor's Center.

"Students learned about the background, culture and management practices to combat selected invasive species and the importance of restoring native plant communities to our ecosystem," MacIntyre said.

Field exercises were also held at Nashville Shores regarding Real Estate out grants and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation highlighted special status species at Couchville Cedar Glades.

Allison Walker, Nashville District Natural Resources specialist, provided instruction on inventory databases for natural resources in the Corps of Engineers, landscape assessments, biological inventories, and geographic information & GPS systems. She lauded the efforts of everyone involved to highlight environmental stewardship.

"This course offers new employees the chance to learn about environmental stewardship programs early in their careers from experts across the nation, as well as see on-the-ground examples at one of the Corps of Engineers' premier lakes," Walker said.

Organizers thanked Nashville Shores, Tennessee Natural Heritage Program from TDEC, instructors and participants for being a part of this initial class.