In 1789 Congress created three Executive Departments: State or Foreign Affairs, Treasury and War. It also provided for an Attorney General and a Postmaster General. Congress apportioned domestic matters among these departments.
The idea of setting up a separate department to handle domestic matters was put forward on numerous occasions. It wasn’t until March 3, 1849, the last day of the 30th Congress, that a bill was passed to create the Department of the Interior to take charge of the Nation’s internal affairs.

The Interior Department had a wide range of responsibilities entrusted to it: the construction of the national capital’s water system, the colonization of freed slaves in Haiti, exploration of western wilderness, oversight of the District of Columbia jail, regulation of territorial governments, management of hospitals and universities, management of public parks, the basic responsibilities for Indians, public lands, patents, and pensions. In one way or another all of these had to do with the internal development of the nation or the welfare of its people.

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1872 Congress establishes Yellowstone as the first National Park.
1879 Creation of the U.S. Geological Survey
1902 The Bureau of Reclamation is established to construct dams and aqueducts in the west.
1903 President Theodore Roosevelt establishes the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island, Florida. The Census Bureau is transferred to the Department of Commerce.
1902 The Bureau of Reclamation is established to construct dams and aqueducts in the west.
1903 President Theodore Roosevelt establishes the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island, Florida. The Census Bureau is transferred to the Department of Commerce.
1935 The Bureau of Reclamation completes construction of Hoover Dam.
1940 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is created from the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey.
1946 Interior’s General Land Office and Grazing Service are merged into the
1977 The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is established to oversee state regulation of strip coal mining and repair of environmental damage.
What are the responsibilities of the Department of Interior?
As the nation’s principal conservation agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior has responsibility for most of our nationally owned public lands and natural resources. From its establishment in 1849, the Department has managed many varied programs including Indian Affairs, administering land grants, improving historic western emigrant routes, marking boundaries, and conducting research on geological resources.
The Department’s mission is (1) to encourage and provide for the appropriate management, preservation, and operation of the Nation’s public lands and natural resources for use and enjoyment both now and in the future; (2) to carry out related scientific research and investigations in support of these objectives; (3) to develop and use resources in an environmentally sound manner, and provide an equitable return on these resources to the American taxpayer; and (4) to carry out trust responsibilities of the U.S. Government with respect to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The Department collects revenues from the leasing of natural gas and oil resources, both offshore and onshore; from coal, timber, and grazing on Federal lands, and from numerous other sources, such as recreation fees. It also receives money from the federal government in which it distributes among the many bureaus. Each year the Dept of the Interior receives an estimated budget from these bureaus and submits them along with its own to an appropriations committee. If approved The Dept. receives that money. Attached is the simplest break down of the Dept.s budget.
The Department of the Interior is comprised of a number of bureaus and offices including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, the National Park Service, the Office of Surface Mining, the Office of Insular Affairs, and the Office of the Secretary.
Gale Norton, a lifelong conservationist, public servant and advocate for bringing common sense solutions to environmental policy, was confirmed as the 48th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior on a bipartisan U.S. Senate vote in January 2001. Secretary Norton is the first female to head the 151-year-old federal agency.
Norton, served as Attorney General of Colorado from 1991 to 1999. In that capacity, she represented virtually every agency of the Colorado state government. She argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts, and testified numerous times before congressional committees.

Norton also served as Chair of the Environment Committee for the National Association of Attorneys General. A nationally recognized public policy leader, Norton was appointed by President George Bush to the Western Water Policy Commission. She also worked as Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and, from 1979 to 1983, as a Senior Attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Norton graduated magna cum laude from the University of Denver in 1975 and earned her law degree with honors from the same university in 1978.
The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for the management of nearly half a billion acres of federal lands. This includes the entire National Park System and vast tracts of federal lands, mostly in the western regions of the country. It is also the Secretarys responsibility to enforce laws that protect threatened and endangered species and that govern the management of national wildlife refuges. Another very important responsibility is to work closely with Indian Tribal leaders to insure that reservations receive adequate economic, educational and social services.


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