Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 13 (1995)

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Cite as: 515 U. S. 687 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

In Hill, we construed 7 as precluding the completion of the Tellico Dam because of its predicted impact on the survival of the snail darter. See 437 U. S., at 193. Both our holding and the language in our opinion stressed the importance of the statutory policy. "The plain intent of Congress in enacting this statute," we recognized, "was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost. This is reflected not only in the stated policies of the Act, but in literally every section of the statute." Id., at 184. Although the 9 "take" prohibition was not at issue in Hill, we took note of that prohibition, placing particular emphasis on the Secretary's inclusion of habitat modification in his definition of "harm." 12 In light of that provision for habitat protection, we could "not understand how TVA intends to operate Tellico Dam without 'harming' the snail darter." Id., at 184, n. 30. Congress' intent to provide comprehensive protection for endangered and threatened species supports the permissibility of the Secretary's "harm" regulation.

Respondents advance strong arguments that activities that cause minimal or unforeseeable harm will not violate the Act as construed in the "harm" regulation. Respondents, however, present a facial challenge to the regulation. Cf. Anderson v. Edwards, 514 U. S. 143, 155-156, n. 6 (1995); INS v. National Center for Immigrants' Rights, Inc., 502 U. S. 183, 188 (1991). Thus, they ask us to invalidate the Secretary's understanding of "harm" in every circumstance, even when an actor knows that an activity, such as draining a

12 We stated: "The Secretary of the Interior has defined the term 'harm' to mean 'an act or omission which actually injures or kills wildlife, including acts which annoy it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt essential behavioral patterns, which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering; significant environmental modification or degradation which has such effects is included within the meaning of "harm." ' " TVA v. Hill, 437 U. S., at 184-185, n. 30 (citations omitted; emphasis in original).

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