A 1995 deal between Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Defense Secretary William Cohen, who was at the time a Republican senator from Maine, helped to keep Atlantic salmon off the endangered species list, according to internal agency memos recently unearthed. In early 1995, Cohen, a moderate, sent a letter to Babbitt threatening to join his party’s frenzied attempts to gut the Endangered Species Act unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped a proposal to designate the Atlantic salmon as endangered, a listing that Cohen claimed would harm Maine industries. Babbitt responded by putting the breaks on listing the fish, over vehement objections from federal scientists. “Babbitt broke the law, period,” said Mark Hughes, executive director of Earthlaw, a Boulder, Colo., environmental law firm. On Nov. 18, 1999, the USFWS once again proposed listing the Atlantic salmon as endangered, but the long delay has put the salmon in an even more precarious position.