United States Department of the Interior

United States Department of the Interior
Seal of the United States Department of the Interior.svg
Seal of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Flag of the United States Department of the Interior.svg
Flag of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Department of the Interior by Matthew Bisanz.JPG
Main Interior Building
Agency overview
FormedMarch 3, 1849; 169 years ago (1849-03-03)
TypeDepartment
HeadquartersMain Interior Building
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C., U.S.
38°53′37.11″N 77°2′33.33″W / 38°53′37.11″N 77°2′33.33″W / 38.8936417; -77.0425917
Employees70,003 (2012)[1]
Annual budget$20.7 billion (2013)[2]
Agency executives

The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States. About 75% of federal public land is managed by the department, with most of the remainder managed by the United States Department of Agriculture's United States Forest Service.[3]

The department is administered by the United States Secretary of the Interior, who is a member of the Cabinet of the President. The current Secretary is Ryan Zinke. The Inspector General position is currently vacant, with Mary Kendall serving as acting Inspector General.[4][5]

Despite its name, the Department of the Interior has a different role from that of the interior ministries of other nations, which are usually responsible for police matters and internal security. In the United States, national security and immigration functions are performed by the Department of Homeland Security primarily and the Department of Justice secondarily.

The Department of the Interior has often been humorously called "The Department of Everything Else" because of its broad range of responsibilities.[6]

History

Formation of the department

A department for domestic concern was first considered by the 1st United States Congress in 1789, but those duties were placed in the Department of State. The idea of a separate domestic department continued to percolate for a half-century and was supported by Presidents from James Madison to James Polk. The 1846–48 Mexican–American War gave the proposal new steam as the responsibilities of the federal government grew. Polk's Secretary of the Treasury, Robert J. Walker, became a vocal champion of creating the new department.[citation needed]

In 1849, Walker stated in his annual report that several federal offices were placed in departments with which they had little to do. He noted that the General Land Office had little to do with the Treasury and also highlighted the Indian Affairs office, part of the Department of War, and the Patent Office, part of the Department of State. Walker argued that these and other bureaus should be brought together in a new Department of the Interior.[citation needed] A bill authorizing its creation of the department passed the House of Representatives on February 15, 1849, and spent just over two weeks in the Senate. The department was established on March 3, 1849 (9 395), the eve of President Zachary Taylor's inauguration, when the Senate voted 31 to 25 to create the department. Its passage was delayed by Democrats in Congress who were reluctant to create more patronage posts for the incoming Whig administration to fill. The first Secretary of the Interior was Thomas Ewing.

Early and later years of the department

Many of the domestic concerns the department originally dealt with were gradually transferred to other departments. For example, the Department of Interior was responsible for water pollution control prior to the creation of the EPA.[7] Other agencies became separate departments, such as the Bureau of Agriculture, which later became the Department of Agriculture. However, land and natural resource management, American Indian affairs, wildlife conservation, and territorial affairs remain the responsibilities of the Department of the Interior.[citation needed]

As of mid-2004, the department managed 507 million acres (2,050,000 km²) of surface land, or about one-fifth of the land in the United States. It manages 476 dams and 348 reservoirs through the Bureau of Reclamation, 410 national parks, monuments, seashore sites, etc. through the National Park Service, and 544 national wildlife refuges through the Fish and Wildlife Service. Energy projects on federally managed lands and offshore areas supply about 28% of the nation's energy production.[citation needed]

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