Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 17 (1995)

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

Opinion of the Court

mal, whereas the Government cannot enforce the 9 prohibition until an animal has actually been killed or injured. The Secretary may also find the 5 authority useful for preventing modification of land that is not yet but may in the future become habitat for an endangered or threatened species. The 7 directive applies only to the Federal Government, whereas the 9 prohibition applies to "any person." Section 7 imposes a broad, affirmative duty to avoid adverse habitat modifications that 9 does not replicate, and 7 does not limit its admonition to habitat modification that "actually kills or injures wildlife." Conversely, 7 contains limitations that 9 does not, applying only to actions "likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species," 16 U. S. C. 1536(a)(2), and to modifications of habitat that has been designated "critical" pursuant to 4, 16 U. S. C. 1533(b)(2).17 Any overlap that 5 or 7 may have with 9 in particular cases is unexceptional, see, e. g., Russello v. United States, 464 U. S. 16, 24, and n. 2 (1983), and simply reflects the broad purpose of the Act set out in 2 and acknowledged in TVA v. Hill.

We need not decide whether the statutory definition of "take" compels the Secretary's interpretation of "harm," because our conclusions that Congress did not unambiguously manifest its intent to adopt respondents' view and that the Secretary's interpretation is reasonable suffice to decide this case. See generally Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837 (1984). The latitude the ESA gives the Secretary in enforcing the statute, together with the degree of regulatory expertise necessary to its enforcement, establishes that we owe some degree of deference to the Secretary's reasonable interpretation. See

17 Congress recognized that 7 and 9 are not coextensive as to federal agencies when, in the wake of our decision in Hill in 1978, it added 7(o), 16 U. S. C. 1536(o), to the Act. That section provides that any federal project subject to exemption from 7, 16 U. S. C. 1536(h), will also be exempt from 9.


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