United States Department of the Interior

United States Department of the Interior
United States
Department of the Interior
Agency overview
Headquarters Department of the Interior by Matthew Bisanz.JPG
Main Interior Building
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C.

38°53′37.11″N 77°2′33.33″W / 38.8936417°N 77.0425917°W / 38.8936417; -77.0425917
Employees 71,436 (2004)
Annual budget $20 billion (2010)
Agency executives Ken Salazar, Secretary
David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary

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 land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and to insular areas of the United States.

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 Ken Salazar of Colorado.

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 functions performed in the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security primarily and the Department of Justice secondarily.

The Department has often been humorously called "The Department of Everything Else", because of its broad range of responsibilities.[1]



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.

In 1849, Walker stated in his annual report that several federal offices were placed in departments which they had little to do with. 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.

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.

Many of the domestic concerns the Department originally dealt with were gradually transferred to other Departments. Other agencies became separate Departments, such as the Bureau of Agriculture, which later became the Department of Agriculture. However, land and natural resource management, Native American affairs, wildlife conservation, and territorial affairs remain the responsibilities of the Department of the Interior.

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, 388 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.

Native Americans

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 Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs is Larry EchoHawk. The Department has been the subject of disputes over proper accounting for Indian Trusts set up to track the income and pay-out of monies that are generated by trust and restricted Native American lands. Currently there are several cases that seek accountings of such funds from the Departments of Interior and Treasury.

Operating units

The hierarchy of the U.S. 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—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."[2] Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter.[2][3]

Under the Administration of U.S. 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."[4]

Gale Norton, Interior Secretary under George W. Bush from 2001–2006, resigned due to connections with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Julie A. MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department appointed by Norton in 2002, also resigned after an internal review found that she had violated federal rules by giving government documents to lobbyists for industry.[5][6] On July 20, 2007, MacDonald's "inappropriate influence" led H. Dale Hall, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to order a review of eight endangered species decisions in which the former deputy assistant secretary was involved. Hall has called MacDonald's disputed decisions "a blemish on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior."[7] On 17 September 2008, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to more than triple the habitat of the California red-legged frog, citing political manipulation by Julie MacDonald.[8] In a government report released in December 2008,[9] Inspector General Devaney called MacDonald's management "abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive,"[10] and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who commissioned the report, attributed the "untold waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars" to MacDonald's actions.[11]

On September 10, 2008, Inspector General Devaney found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, then known as the Minerals Management Service. In a cover memo, Devaney wrote “A culture of ethical failure” pervades the agency. According to the report, eight officials accepted gifts from energy companies whose value exceeded limits set by ethics rules — including golf, ski, and paintball outings; meals; drinks; and tickets to a Toby Keith concert, a Houston Texans football game, and a Colorado Rockies baseball game. The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.” According to the New York Times, "The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch."[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

George W. Bush administration Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne was also criticized by environmental groups for not placing any plants or animals on the federal endangered species list between September 2007 and his confirmation on May 26, 2006. As of that date, Kempthorne held the record for protecting fewer species over his tenure than any Interior Secretary in United States history, a record previously held by James G. Watt for over 20 years.[22]

On December 16, 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Interior Department under Kempthorne for introducing "regulations...that would eviscerate our nation’s most successful wildlife law by exempting thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act." According to the CBD, Kempthorne's regulations violated the Endagered Species Act, "did not go through the required public review process" and "were rushed by the Bush administration through an abbreviated process" with "environmental impacts were analyzed in a short and cursory environmental assessment, rather than a fuller environmental impact statement."[23]


  1. ^ retrieved 2010-05-20
  2. ^ a b 556. James G Watt, US Secretary of the Interior. Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations. 1988[dead link]
  3. ^ RMOA - Document
  4. ^ Bush legacy leaves uphill climb for U.S. parks
  5. ^ Matthew Daly (May 1, 2007). "Embattled Interior official resigns post". Associated Press. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2007/05/01/interior_official_quits_ahead_of_hearing/. [dead link]
  6. ^ New York Times, "U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife", July 21, 2007.
  7. ^ Broder, John M (2007-07-21). "U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/21/washington/21interior.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin. 
  8. ^ A California frog may be about to get room to stretch its red legs
  9. ^ Report Finds Meddling in Interior Dept. Actions
  10. ^ Investigative Report of the Endangered Species Act and the Conflict Between Science and Policy Redacted[dead link]
  11. ^ Wyden-Requested IG Report on Interior Corruption Uncovers "Contempt for the Public Trust" and "Untold Waste" - Senator praises Devaney's investigation into political interference in ESA decisions. [dead link]
  12. ^ Charlie Savage (September 10, 2008). Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/washington/11royalty.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  13. ^ Kravitz, Derek (September 11, 2008). "Report Says Oil Agency Ran Amok: Interior Dept. Inquiry Finds Sex, Corruption". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/10/AR2008091001829.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  14. ^ Savage, Charlie (September 11, 2008). "Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited in Interior Department". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/washington/11royalty.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  15. ^ "Oil companies gave sex, drinks, gifts to federal overseers". McClatchy Newspapers. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/226/story/52243.html. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  16. ^ "Memorandum [cover letter by inspector general"]. http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2008/09/10/18/Gordon-OIG-Cover-Letter.source.prod_affiliate.91.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  17. ^ "Investigative Report of Gregory W. Smith (Redacted)". The Washington Post. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/investigative/documents/smith-080708.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  18. ^ "Investigative Report of MMS Oil Marketing Group - Lakewood (Redacted)". The Washington Post. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/investigative/documents/mmsoil-081908.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  19. ^ "Government Officials Tried To Rewrite Ethics Rules To Accommodate Their Partying". http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/10/rik-ethics-rules. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  20. ^ "Official increased employee’s ‘performance award’ for providing him with cocaine". http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/10/smith-cocaine. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  21. ^ Simon, Dan; David Fitzpatrick (October 14 2008). "Whistleblower: Oil watchdog agency 'cult of corruption'". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/10/14/oil.whistleblower/index.html. 
  22. ^ Kempthorne Wins 2007 Rubber Dodo Award: Protects Fewer Species Than Any Interior Secretary in History
  23. ^ Bush Administration Regulations Gutting Protections for Nation's Endangered Species Published Today - Conservation Groups' Challenge to 11th Hour Reductions in Protections for Nation’s Wildlife Moves ForwarD

Further reading

  • Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (2004)
  • Utley, Robert M. and Barry Mackintosh; The Department of Everything Else, Highlights of Interior History; Dept of the Interior, Washington, D.C.; 1989

External links

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