WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to reopen the debate over the Endangered Species Act's impact on private landowners.
The court, without comment, turned aside a case testing whether farmers may kill endangered red wolves that stray from a federal refuge.
The case contained a stark ideological and constitutional question -- how far does federal control extend -- and a political twist as well.
Theodore Olson, President Bush's constitutional lawyer in the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election, was the chief lawyer for North Carolina farmers angry over dead livestock.
Olson also was named last week as the Bush administration's solicitor general, or lead Supreme Court lawyer. If Olson was confirmed by the Senate and the justices took the wildlife case, he would have had to quit as the lawyer in this case and then decide whether to argue precisely the opposite side.
The Clinton administration opposed the farmers and argued that the wolves should be left alone.
A new administration typically sticks with the positions already on record in pending Supreme Court cases, but some constitutional lawyers say this case might have been an exception.
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