INTERIOR:

FWS switches heads of endangered species, fisheries programs

The Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that two of its senior leaders will switch jobs, returning Gary Frazer to oversee the endangered species program as he did under the Clinton administration.

Frazer, currently assistant director for fisheries and habitat conservation, immediately will assume management of the Endangered Species Program, which he headed from 1999 to 2004.

Bryan Arroyo, currently assistant director of endangered species, will become assistant director for fisheries and habitat conservation. The switch will allow Arroyo to manage the Fisheries and Habitat Conservation Program using expertise he gained in the FWS Southwest Region, the agency said.

"This change will enable the Service to better take advantage of their strengths and talents, enabling us to tackle new challenges like climate change, while protecting and enhancing our nation's fish and wildlife resources," Rowan Gould, acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.

Frazer, who held the fisheries and habitat conservation position since January 2008, now will be responsible for carrying out policy development and management of all aspects of the endangered species program.

From 2004 to 2007, Frazer served as the Fish and Wildlife Service's liaison to the U.S. Geological Survey. He has been a field biologist and field supervisor and served in Washington as a staffer for wetland regulatory issues. He also spent a year on detail to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was acting deputy chief for the Division of Habitat Conservation, and special assistant to the assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks for three years. In 1998 he became deputy assistant director for the Ecological Services Program.

Arroyo will be responsible for overseeing policy direction and management of the National Fish Hatchery System, fish health and fish technology centers, fisheries management, aquatic invasive species and injurious wildlife, habitat restoration programs, environmental contaminants, natural resource damage assessment and restoration, environmental review of development activities, and wetlands inventory and mapping.

Arroyo has overseen the Endangered Species Program since 2006. Before that he served as assistant regional director for ecological services in the Southwest Region from 1998 to 2006, where he led regionwide implementation of the Endangered Species Act, environmental contaminants, habitat conservation, partners for fish and wildlife and the coastal program, among others. He has served in field, regional and national FWS offices, which included a stint as a biologist conducting project reviews under the ESA and National Environmental Policy Act.

Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity lauded the move. "This is very good news," he said in an e-mail. "Frazer is a dedicated, experienced science-based civil servant (who has a lot of cleaning up to do)."

Nicole Rosmarino, an attorney with WildEarth Guardians, praised the decision to remove Arroyo from the endangered species job.

"The Southwest program as a whole on endangered species has really suffered over the past 8 years. It has been one of the worst regions in the country in terms of political interference with scientists," Rosmarino said. "I think Bryan Arroyo has been part of the problem. He certainly hasn't stuck his neck out for endangered species. We've gotten to the point ... where the Obama Administration needs to appoint true champions for endangered species, and we did not see that in Bryan Arroyo."

WildEarth Guardians has been waging an ongoing struggle against FWS's Southwest Region over a petition to list 165 species.

Reporters Allison Winter and Patrick Reis contributed.

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