Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

United States Department of the Interior

Dept. of the Interior

Established:March 3, 1849
Activated:March 8, 1849
Secretary:Gale Norton
Deputy Secretary:James Steven Griles
Budget:$10.4 billion (2003)
Employees:70,037 (2003)

The United States Department of the Interior is a Cabinet department of the United States government that manages and conserves most Federally owned land. These responsibilities are quite different than Interior Departments of other nations, which tend to focus on police or security.

In contrast to similarly named Departments in other countries, the United States Department of the Interior is not responsible for local government or for civil administration except in the cases of Indian reservations.

It is administered by the United States Secretary of the Interior, who by tradition generally comes from a Western state.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Operating Units
3 External Links


A department for domestic concerns was first considered by the First Congress in 1789, but those duties were placed in the Department of State. Its proposal continued to percolate for a half-century and was supported by Presidents from James Madison to James K. Polk.

The 1846-1848 Mexican-American War, gave the proposal new steam as the responsibilities of the federal government grew. President Polk's Secretary of the Treasury, Robert J. Walker became a vocal champion of creating the new department.

In 1848, Walker stated in his annual report that several federal offices were placed in departments with which they had little to do. He noted that General Land Office had little to do with the Department of the Treasury. He also highlighted the Indian Affairs office in the Department of War and the Patent Office in the State Department. He argued that all should be brought together in a new Department of the Interior. A bill authorizing its creation 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, the eve of President Zachary Taylor's inauguration, when the Senate voted 31 to 25 to create the Department. Its passage was delayed by Congressional Democrats who were reluctant to create more patronage opportunities for the incoming Whig administration.

As of March 2003, the Department managed 507 million acres of surface land, or about one-fifth of the land in the United States. Through its various bureaus, it manages 457 dams and 348 reservoirs, 387 national parks, 540 national wildlife refuges, 69 national fish hatcheries. Energy projects on federally managed lands and offshore areas supply about 28 percent of the nation's energy production.

Operating Units

External Links