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The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an ambitious challenge to Endangered Species Act protections for the delta smelt.

Acting without comment, the court rejected the petition filed on behalf of San Joaquin Valley farm companies including the Stewart & Jasper Orchards of Stanislaus County.

The court's decision leaves intact an earlier ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had rejected the farmer's potentially far-reaching arguments. The farmers contended that the smelt was strictly an "intrastate" species, found only in California, and that therefore Congress lacked the authority to impose environmental restrictions.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit determined otherwise in its March ruling, concluding that the Endangered Species Act "bears a substantial relation" to interstate commerce and therefore fit within the constitutionally granted authority of Congress.


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