by Pia K. Hansen and Cara Gardner

And They're Off -- SPOKANE --The filing period may not begin until the end of July, but the area's first gubernatorial debate will be held on Friday.

Hosted by the Gonzaga Political Science Department along with the Gonzaga Republican and Democratic student clubs, the candidates will face questions from a panel of journalists and academics as well as each other.

One of the candidates who has announced a bid for Gary Locke's office this fall will be missing, however. Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire won't participate. Staff at Gregoire's campaign office say Gregoire has a prior booking that day, fulfilling her AG duties.

But event managers at Gonzaga are going through with the debate.

"We had the debate scheduled in November and December trying to work with everyone's schedules," says Brian Chinchar, a member of the campus Democratic club and one of the people behind the debate.

Democratic candidates Ron Sims and Phil Talmadge, as well as Republican candidates Federico Cruz and Dino Rossi are confirmed for Friday.

"It's perhaps a bit early on in the campaign," says Chinchar, "but it will be fun. Yes, we will take questions from the audience toward the end of the forum."

The debate is on Friday, Jan. 16, at 6:30 pm in the Foley Teleconference Center. Call: 323-3627

Wolf Fight -- BOISE -- Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are joining forces with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Bush Administration on its quest to take Canadian gray wolves off the endangered species list.

In 1994, the USFWS reintroduced wolves, which had vanished from the United States, into Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.

"Idaho is making the case that the Idaho [wolf] population has recovered enough to be delisted and that would bring [wolf] management under state control," says Mike Journee, Kempthorne's press secretary. "The UFWS agrees with the governor."

Ed Bangs, a wolf expert with the USFWS's wolf recovery program, says that the number of wolves now living in the western United States is between 700 and 800.

"The population is still expanding," says Bangs. "It's time for states to start managing wolves."

But wildlife activists, including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, disagree, saying that wolves are still threatened.

"Folks need to remember that as recently as 2002, the Idaho legislature voted on the removal of all wolves by, and I'm quoting, 'any means necessary,' " says Chase Davis,

Bangs says people are the cause of 85 percent of wolf deaths, "whether accidental, intentional, legal or illegal."

The USFWS has killed more than 150 wolves since reintroduction, and more than 40 in Idaho alone, most often because they attack livestock. Oppon-ents of delisting say this practice is enough reason to keep wolves under federal management.

"Taxpayers have invested tens of millions in recovering the few populations we have today," Davis says. "It's been a success for the USFWS. Idaho has neither the resources nor the political will to take over the responsibility of protecting wolves."

Folding Its Cards -- SPOKANE -- The Washington State Problem Gambling Treatment Program (WSCPG) lasted only eight months, even though a just-released evaluation shows the program was effective.

WSCPG received a $500,000, one-time appropriation funded by state lottery revenues, and treated clients from October 2002 through June 2003.

Of 226 individuals, 203 were problem gamblers and the rest family members. Clients had gambling debts as high as $100,000 with an average of $30,000. One in seven had legal problems because of gambling.

"This program saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars," says Gary Hanson, executive director of the Washington State Council on Problem Gambling (WSCPG). "It helped get problem gamblers off unemployment lines; it helped keep families together."

During this period, one-third of the program's clients abstained from gambling and another third had significantly reduced their gambling habit. Most couldn't afford to continue treatment when the funding was cut.

"Ninety percent had to drop out," says Hanson. "In the long run, untreated problem gamblers cost the state much more than the program did."

Publication date: 1/15/04

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