Naked City

FWS's Frederick Moves On

David Frederick, a field supervisor in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Austin office, is headed for Albuquerque, in line with a Bush Administration shakeup of agency staff members. The personnel shift includes Frederick's transfer to Southwest regional headquarters to oversee habitat conservation-related activities in New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas. Frederick's successor is Renne Lohoefener, who is currently working in the agency's Washington, D.C., office, and will assume his position May 5. Frederick's departure date is June 1.

Word of the maneuvers spread quickly through Austin's environmental and development communities, fueling speculation that Frederick's transfer was due in part to his declaration last year that lax enforcement of development regulations was jeopardizing the survival of the Barton Springs salamander, which is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. In the hotly debated "jeopardy" opinion -- a biological study that drew on scientific corroboration -- Frederick faulted the Environmental Protection Agency for its overly permissive process of issuing storm water discharge permits for large-scale developments in the sensitive Barton Springs watershed (see item above).

Frederick says he doesn't know if the report contributed to his transfer. "When you play with the big dogs, you're going to get bit," he said. "That's because I deal with the hottest environmental subjects in Texas." It's rare that Fish & Wildlife ever issues a jeopardy opinion, one local environmental attorney observed recently. As such, the report sent shockwaves to Washington and infuriated the development community, whose leaders have long believed that Frederick often oversteps his regulatory bounds. The Texas Capitol Area Builders Association, for example, has twice sued Fish & Wildlife over disagreements with Frederick. (That is not to suggest that environmentalists were big supporters of Frederick; many times they were on the opposing end of his decisions.)

Under the Bush Administration, local development interests appear more optimistic, given their lobby's influential role in Washington. By most indications, developers also have an ally in David P. Smith Jr., a longtime Austin development lawyer now with the Dept. of the Interior. Smith had previously served as appointments manager under Gov. George W. Bush.

Despite all this, the official Fish & Wildlife explanation for the staff changes is that they represent standard domino effects of promotions within the agencies. Frederick was needed in the Albuquerque office because its regional director, Nancy Kaufman, was summoned to Washington to oversee a four-month assignment. Her mission: to determine whether some of Fish & Wildlife's functions could be better handled by the private sector, said agency spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown. Local environmentalists familiar with Kaufman believe she was kicked upstairs to remove her from a position of authority, just as Frederick was transferred out of Austin under pressure from local development interests. Why the administration picked Lohoefener to succeed Frederick is anyone's guess, but here's one possible clue: The development community is breathing easier.

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