Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 10 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court


Because this case was decided on motions for summary judgment, we may appropriately make certain factual assumptions in order to frame the legal issue. First, we assume respondents have no desire to harm either the redcockaded woodpecker or the spotted owl; they merely wish to continue logging activities that would be entirely proper if not prohibited by the ESA. On the other hand, we must assume, arguendo, that those activities will have the effect, even though unintended, of detrimentally changing the natural habitat of both listed species and that, as a consequence, members of those species will be killed or injured. Under respondents' view of the law, the Secretary's only means of forestalling that grave result—even when the actor knows it is certain to occur 9—is to use his 5 authority to purchase

9 As discussed above, the Secretary's definition of "harm" is limited to "act[s] which actually kil[l] or injur[e] wildlife." 50 CFR 17.3 (1994). In addition, in order to be subject to the Act's criminal penalties or the more severe of its civil penalties, one must "knowingly violat[e]" the Act or its implementing regulations. 16 U. S. C. 1540(a)(1), (b)(1). Congress added "knowingly" in place of "willfully" in 1978 to make "criminal violations of the act a general rather than a specific intent crime." H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 95-1804, p. 26 (1978). The Act does authorize up to a $500 civil fine for "[a]ny person who otherwise violates" the Act or its implementing regulations. 16 U. S. C. 1540(a)(1). That provision is potentially sweeping, but it would be so with or without the Secretary's "harm" regulation, making it unhelpful in assessing the reasonableness of the regulation. We have imputed scienter requirements to criminal statutes that impose sanctions without expressly requiring scienter, see, e. g., Staples v. United States, 511 U. S. 600 (1994), but the proper case in which we might consider whether to do so in the 9 provision for a $500 civil penalty would be a challenge to enforcement of that provision itself, not a challenge to a regulation that merely defines a statutory term. We do not agree with the dissent that the regulation covers results that are not "even foreseeable . . . no matter how long the chain of causality between modification and injury." Post, at 715. Respondents have suggested no reason why either the "knowingly violates" or the "otherwise violates" provision of the statute—or the "harm" regulation itself—should not be

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