United States Department of the Interior

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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;174 years ago (1849-03-03)
Jurisdiction U.S. federal government
  • Main Interior Building
  • 1849 C Street NW
  • Washington, D.C., U.S.
  • 20240

38°53′40″N77°02′33″W / 38.89444°N 77.04250°W / 38.89444; -77.04250
Employees67,026 (2022) [1]
Annual budget$17.6 billion (2022) [2]
Agency executives
Website DOI.gov

The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is an executive department of the U.S. federal government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources. It also administers 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 Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. [3] The department was created on March 3, 1849. It is headquartered at the Main Interior Building, located at 1849 C Street NW in Washington, D.C.


The department is headed by the secretary of the interior, who reports directly to the president of the United States and is a member of the president's Cabinet. The current secretary is Deb Haaland.

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, 428 national parks, monuments, historical sites, etc. through the National Park Service, and 544 national wildlife refuges through the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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. [4]


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. [5] [6] [7]

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 United States 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.

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. [8] 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.


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 faced criticism for his alleged hostility to environmentalism, for 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". His 1983 resignation was prompted by a speech in which he said about his staff: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." [9] [10]

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." [11]

American Indians

Within the Interior Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs handles some federal relations with American Indians, 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 American Indian Trusts set up to track the income and distribution of monies that are generated by the trust and specific American Indian 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 American Indian 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 American Indian water rights cases. [12] [13]

On March 16, 2021, Deb Haaland, serving at that time as a member of Congress for New Mexico, took the oath of office as secretary, becoming the first American Indian to lead an executive department, and the third woman to lead the department. [14]

Operating units

The hierarchy of the U.S. Department of the Interior Department of interior.jpg
The hierarchy of the U.S. Department of the Interior


DOI Convocation Honor Award is the most prestigious recognition that can be granted by the department.

The following awards are presented at the Honor Awards Convocation: [15]


In 2018, DOI established 12 organizational regions to be used across the department. These superseded the previous 49 regions used across 8 agencies. [16]

See also

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  1. "Staffing" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on May 25, 2022. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  2. "Departmental Overview" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on May 16, 2022. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  3. GAO, "Federal Land Management: Observations on a Possible Move of the Forest Service into the Department of the Interior" Archived July 3, 2017, at the Wayback Machine , February 11, 2009
  4. "History" Archived August 14, 2015, at the Wayback Machine , National Park Service web page. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  5. "U.S. Department of the Inteior: The Department of Everything Else". National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 17, 2021. Retrieved February 24, 2023.
  6. "Robert J Walker Secretary of the Treasury 1845-1849". Treasury Department. Archived from the original on October 3, 2022. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  7. "History of the Department of the Interior". www.doi.gov. July 1, 2015. Archived from the original on March 17, 2022. Retrieved February 24, 2023.
  8. Elkins, Chuck (October 2013). "Transcript of "Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the EPA" Video" (PDF). EPA Alumni Association. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  9. 556. James G Watt, US Secretary of the Interior., "Simpson's Contemporary Quotations" (1988) via bartleby.com and Wayback Machine.
  10. "RMOA – Document". Archived from the original on January 8, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
  11. Cart, Julie. "Bush legacy leaves uphill climb for U.S. parks", Los Angeles Times , January 25, 2009.
  12. Curtis, Mary C., "Obama Hails Passage of Settlement for Native Americans, Black Farmers" Archived February 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine , The Huffington Post , November 30, 2010. Accessed December 1, 2011.
  13. Warren, James, "A Victory for Native Americans?" Archived February 27, 2017, at the Wayback Machine , The Atlantic, 7 June 2010.
  14. Chavez, Aliyah (March 16, 2021). "Deb Haaland swearing in details announced". Indian Country Today. Archived from the original on March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  15. "Department of Interior Awards & Recognition". Department of Interior. September 12, 2019. Archived from the original on May 22, 2021. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  16. "Unified Interior Regional Boundaries". www.doi.gov. February 22, 2018. Archived from the original on August 21, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2023.

Further reading