Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 16 (1995)

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702

BABBITT v. SWEET HOME CHAPTER, COMMUNITIES FOR GREAT ORE.

Opinion of the Court

in[g]" action is enough to violate the Act. Third, the court employed noscitur a sociis to give "harm" essentially the same function as other words in the definition, thereby denying it independent meaning. The canon, to the contrary, counsels that a word "gathers meaning from the words around it." Jarecki v. G. D. Searle & Co., 367 U. S. 303, 307 (1961). The statutory context of "harm" suggests that Congress meant that term to serve a particular function in the ESA, consistent with, but distinct from, the functions of the other verbs used to define "take." The Secretary's interpretation of "harm" to include indirectly injuring endangered animals through habitat modification permissibly interprets "harm" to have "a character of its own not to be submerged by its association." Russell Motor Car Co. v. United States, 261 U. S. 514, 519 (1923).16

Nor does the Act's inclusion of the 5 land acquisition authority and the 7 directive to federal agencies to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat alter our conclusion. Respondents' argument that the Government lacks any incentive to purchase land under 5 when it can simply prohibit takings under 9 ignores the practical considerations that attend enforcement of the ESA. Purchasing habitat lands may well cost the Government less in many circumstances than pursuing civil or criminal penalties. In addition, the 5 procedure allows for protection of habitat before the seller's activity has harmed any endangered ani-16 Respondents' reliance on United States v. Hayashi, 22 F. 3d 859 (CA9 1993), is also misplaced. Hayashi construed the term "harass," part of the definition of "take" in the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 16 U. S. C. 1361 et seq., as requiring a "direct intrusion" on wildlife to support a criminal prosecution. 22 F. 3d, at 864. Hayashi dealt with a challenge to a single application of a statute whose "take" definition includes neither "harm" nor several of the other words that appear in the ESA definition. Moreover, Hayashi was decided by a panel of the Ninth Circuit, the same court that had previously upheld the regulation at issue here in Palila II, 852 F. 2d 1106 (1988). Neither the Hayashi majority nor the dissent saw any need to distinguish or even to cite Palila II.

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