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Last night, ten candidates took the stage for a more civil debate than we've seen so far this cycle to talk about issues from climate change to corruption in politics - but there were some tense moments.

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Save NW Salmon – Or Not? “God Squad” Could Make the Call

September 24, 2007

Seattle, WA - Wild salmon could become the next "spotted owl" case in the Pacific Northwest. Speaking this weekend in Seattle, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said some conservation leaders are in favor of asking for a so-called "God Squad," a special federal committee that would make the final call on whether native salmon populations should be restored. In the spotted owl case of the 1990s, Babbitt says it was an effective way to move a heated discussion forward.

"It had a galvanizing effect. It focused the Congress, the Administration, and all of the players on the need to either have a real plan, or to belly up and say, 'We're gonna let the bird go extinct.'"

Babbitt says it's one way to end the string of court battles over federal plans to save the fish, that conservation groups say just aren't working.

"This Administration is just running down the clock. They are unwilling to take the necessary steps, and they know if they procrastinate and propose these inadequate plans long enough, the sockeye salmon, particularly, will simply become extinct."

A "God Squad," created under the Endangered Species Act, is made up of seven Cabinet-level officials. Thirteen types of salmon and steelhead have been listed as endangered since the 1990s. Babbitt says it's time to "cut to the chase" and decide whether the nation is willing to save them.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA