National Association of Home Builders v. Babbitt
130 F.3d 1041 (D.C. Cir. 1997)

  • The Dehli Sands flower-loving fly lived only in a small area of California.
    • Its habitat did not cross State boundaries.
    • The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined that the fly was an endangered species, and its habitat was a critical habitat.
  • San Bernadino County wanted to build a hospital on the land the fly lived on. They negotiated a deal with FWS to build their hospital, but to set aside another parcel of land for the fly to live on. FWS issued a permit.
  • San Bernadino then tried to redesign a highway to improve access to the hospital. FWS determined that this was constituted a taking of the fly, in violation of Endangered Species Act 9(a).
    • ESA 9(a)(1) says that it is unlawful to take any endangered species within the US.
    • The case of Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Greater Oregon (515 U.S. 687 (1995)) had expanded the definition of take to include causing significant habitat degradation.
  • San Bernadino sued to challenge the application of 9(a) to the fly.
    • San Bernadino argued that, based on the recent decision in United States v. Lopez (514 U.S. 549 (1995)), the Federal government did not have the Constitutional authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate the fly, since it was not involved in interstate commerce, it was just a local land use issue.
  • The Trial Court found that the FWS had the authority to regulate the fly.
    • The Trial Court found that because two botanists traveled across State lines to visit the fly's habitat, the fly was involved in interstate commerce, and the Commerce Clause applied.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed, but for different reasons.
    • The Appellate Court found that the fly is involved in a 'channel of interstate commerce' because the prohibition against takings of an endangered species is necessary to enable the Federal government to control the transport of the endangered species in interstate commerce.
      • Citing Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc. v. United States (379 U.S. 241 (1964)), the Court said that "if it is interstate commerce that feels the pinch, it does not matter how local the operation which applied the squeeze."
    • The Appellate Court found that the ESA in general can be construed as 'substantially affecting interstate commerce' because of the importance of the continuing availability of a wide variety of species to interstate commerce.
      • "ESA substantially affects interstate commerce for two primary reasons. First, the provision prevents the destruction of biodiversity and thereby protects the current and future interstate commerce that relies upon it. Second, the provision controls adverse effects of interstate competition."