The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department of the U.S. government

The Department of the Interior 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. 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.

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.

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. 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, 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.

Department responsibilities

As of mid-2004, the department managed 507 million acres 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.

Agencies under the United States Department of the Interior
David Bernhardt, Secretary Katharine MacGregor, Deputy Secretary

Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of Indian Education
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
Bureau of Reclamation
National Indian Gaming Commission
National Park Service
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Geological Survey
Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs
Office of the Solicitor
Office of Natural Resources Revenue
Central Utah Project Completion Act
Office Indian Arts and Crafts Board
National Invasive Species Council