Seal of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Flag of the U.S. Department of the Interior
Main Interior Building
|Formed||March 3, 1849|
|Headquarters|| Main Interior Building |
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Annual budget||$20.7 billion (2013)|
The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department of the U.S. government. It is 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, as well as programs related to historic preservation. 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.The department was created on March 3, 1849.
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 David Bernhardt, who previously served in the department as deputy secretary. The inspector general position is currently held by Mark Greenblatt.
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.
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 Stat. 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.
On Tuesday September 1, 2020 U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt signed Secretary’s Order 3384 establishing the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration (BTFA). The BTFA initially reported to the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Tara Katuk Sweeney and assumed responsibility for financial operations functions formerly performed by the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) effective October 1, 2020.
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. Several 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 Environmental Protection Agency. 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. The Department in January 2020 grounded its fleet of 810 DJI drones used to monitor wildlife and infrastructure over security concerns.
Within the Interior Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs handles some federal relations with Native Americans, while others are handled by the Office of Special Trustee. The current acting assistant secretary for Indian affairs is Lawrence S. Roberts, an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin.
The department has been the subject of disputes over proper accounting for Native American Trusts set up to track the income and distribution of monies that are generated by the trust and specific Native American lands, which the government leases for fees to companies that extract oil, timber, minerals, and other resources. Several cases have sought an accounting of such funds from departments within the Interior and Treasury (such as the Minerals Management Service), in what has been a 15-year-old lawsuit. Some Native American nations have also sued the government over water-rights issues and their treaties with the US. In 2010 Congress passed the Claims Settlement Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-291), which provided $3.4 billion for the settlement of the Cobell v. Salazar class-action trust case and four Native American water rights cases.
The $3.4 billion will be placed in a still-to-be-selected bank and $1.4 billion will go to individuals, mostly in the form of checks ranging from $500 to $1,500. A small group, such as members of the Osage tribe who benefit from huge Oklahoma oil revenues, will get far more, based on a formula incorporating their 10 highest years of income between 1985 and 2009. As important, $2 billion will be used to buy trust land from Native American owners at fair market prices, with the government finally returning the land to tribes. Nobody can be forced to sell.
On December 17, 2020 Deb Haaland, U.S. Representative from New Mexico, was nominated by President-elect Joseph R. Biden to become the first Native American to lead a cabinet level agency as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921. He was convicted of bribery in 1929, and served one year in prison, for his part in the controversy. A major factor in the scandal was a transfer of certain oil leases from the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy to that of the Department of the Interior, at Fall's behest.
Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt—already facing criticism related to his alleged hostility to environmentalism and his support of the development and use of federal lands by foresting, ranching, and other commercial interests, and for banning The Beach Boys from playing a 1983 Independence Day concert on the National Mall out of concerns of attracting "an undesirable element"—resigned abruptly after a September 21, 1983, speech in which he said about his staff: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent."Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter.
Under the Administration of President George W. Bush, the Interior Department's maintenance backlog climbed from $5 billion to $8.7 billion, despite Bush's campaign pledges to eliminate it completely. Of the agency under Bush's leadership, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney has cited a "culture of fear" and of "ethical failure." Devaney has also said, "Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of Interior."
The United States secretary of the interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior. The secretary and the Department of the Interior are responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, leading such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service. The Secretary also serves on and appoints the private citizens on the National Park Foundation Board. The Secretary is a member of the United States Cabinet and reports to the president of the United States. The function of the U.S. Department of the Interior is different from that of the interior minister designated in many other countries.
The United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), also known as the Health Department, is a cabinet-level executive branch department of the U.S. federal government with the goal of protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services. Its motto is "Improving the health, safety, and well-being of America". Before the separate federal Department of Education was created in 1979, it was called the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency of the US federal government within the US Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), also known as Indian Affairs (IA), is a United States federal agency within the Department of the Interior. It is responsible for implementing federal laws and policies related to American Indians and Alaska Natives, and administering and managing over 55,700,000 acres (225,000 km2) of land held in trust by the U.S. federal government for Indian Tribes. It renders services to roughly 2 million indigenous Americans across 574 federally recognized tribes. The BIA is governed by a director and overseen by the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, who answers to the Secretary of the Interior.
The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees federal administration of several United States insular areas. It is the successor to the Bureau of Insular Affairs of the War Department, which administered certain territories from 1902 to 1939, and the Office of Territorial Affairs in the Interior Department, which was responsible for certain territories from the 1930s to the 1990s. The word "insular" comes from the Latin word insula ("island").
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) was an agency of the United States Department of the Interior that managed the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS).
Federal lands are lands in the United States owned by the federal government. Pursuant to the Property Clause of the United States Constitution, the Congress has the power to retain, buy, sell, and regulate federal lands, such as by limiting cattle grazing on them. These powers have been recognized in a long line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Cobell v. Salazar is a class-action lawsuit brought by Elouise Cobell (Blackfeet) and other Native American representatives in 1996 against two departments of the United States government: the Department of Interior and the Department of the Treasury for mismanagement of Indian trust funds. It was settled in 2009. The plaintiffs claim that the U.S. government has incorrectly accounted for the income from Indian trust assets, which are legally owned by the Department of the Interior, but held in trust for individual Native Americans. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The original complaint asserted no claims for mismanagement of the trust assets, since such claims could only properly be asserted in the United States Court of Federal Claims.
The United States Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) is one of seven litigating components of the U.S. Department of Justice. ENRD's mandate is to enforce civil and criminal environmental laws and programs protecting the health and environment of the United States, and to defend suits challenging those laws and programs.
Executive Schedule is the system of salaries given to the highest-ranked appointed officials in the executive branch of the U.S. government. The president of the United States appoints individuals to these positions, most with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. They include members of the president's Cabinet, several top-ranking officials of each executive department, the directors of some of the more prominent departmental and independent agencies, and several members of the Executive Office of the President.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is the Florida government agency charged with environmental protection. It is under the nominal control of the governor.
Allan K. Fitzsimmons is the Wildlands Fuel Coordinator at the United States Department of the Interior. This is a newly created position where he will coordinate and implement fuels treatment on lands managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.
Douglas William Domenech is an American government official serving as the Assistant United States Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas in the Trump administration. He is a former a George W. Bush administration political appointee who served in roles of Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Department of the Interior, and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior, as well as held a position on the White House Working Group on the Political Status of Puerto Rico.
Kevin K. Washburn is an American law professor, former dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law, and current Dean of the University of Iowa College of Law. He served in the administration of President Barack Obama as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior from 2012 to 2016. Washburn has also been a federal prosecutor, a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, and the General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Washburn is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, a federally-recognized Indian tribe.
The Arctic policy of the United States is the foreign policy of the United States in regard to the Arctic region. In addition, the United States' domestic policy toward Alaska is part of its Arctic policy.
Wilma A. Lewis is the Chief United States District Judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands. She previously served as the first female United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
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