Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 21 (1995)

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

Opinion of the Court

The history of the 1982 amendment that gave the Secretary authority to grant permits for "incidental" takings provides further support for his reading of the Act. The House Report expressly states that "[b]y use of the word 'incidental' the Committee intends to cover situations in which it is known that a taking will occur if the other activity is engaged in but such taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, the activity." H. R. Rep. No. 97-567, p. 31 (1982). This reference to the foreseeability of incidental takings undermines respondents' argument that the 1982 amendment covered only accidental killings of endangered and threatened animals that might occur in the course of hunting or trapping other animals. Indeed, Congress had habitat modification directly in mind: Both the Senate Report and the House Conference Report identified as the model for the permit process a cooperative state-federal response to a case in California where a development project threatened incidental harm to a species of endangered butterfly by modification of its habitat. See S. Rep. No. 97-418, p. 10 (1982); H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 97-835, pp. 30-32 (1982). Thus, Congress in 1982 focused squarely on the aspect of the "harm" regulation at issue in this litigation. Congress' implementation of a permit profunds for acquisition of critical habitat . . . . It will also enable the Department of Agriculture to cooperate with willing landowners who desire to assist in the protection of endangered species, but who are understandably unwilling to do so at excessive cost to themselves.

"Another hazard to endangered species arises from those who would capture or kill them for pleasure or profit. There is no way that Congress can make it less pleasurable for a person to take an animal, but we can certainly make it less profitable for them to do so." Id., at 30162.

Each of these statements merely explained features of the bills that Congress eventually enacted in 5 of the ESA and went on to discuss elements enacted in 9. Neither statement even suggested that 5 would be the Act's exclusive remedy for habitat modification by private landowners or that habitat modification by private landowners stood outside the ambit of 9. Respondents' suggestion that these statements identified 5 as the ESA's only response to habitat modification contradicts their emphasis elsewhere on the habitat protections in 7. See supra, at 702-703.


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