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International Affairs - Who We Are
U.S. Department of the Interior
It wasn't until March 3, 1849, the eve of President Zachary Taylor's inauguration, that the Senate voted 31 to 25 to create the Department of the Interior. The idea of setting up a separate department to handle domestic matters was put forward on numerous occasions but was not instilled until the last day of the 30th Congress.
A sampling of tasks assigned the Interior Department suggests the scope of its cares in the last half of the 19th century. These ranged from the conduct of the decennial census to the colonization of free slaves in Haiti, from the exploration of western wilderness to over-sight of the District of Columbia jail, from the regulation of territorial governments to construction of the national capital's water system, from management of hospitals and universities to maintenance of public parks. Such functions, together with basic responsibilities for Indians, public lands, patents, and pensions, gave Interior officials an extraordinary array of concerns.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was established in 1939 when President Roosevelt transferred a number of functions and priorities from the Commerce Department, Agriculture Department and the Bureau of Biological Services to where they were consolidated into a new Fish and Wildlife Service. With these transfers the department inherited a system of federal wildlife refuges dating from 1903, when Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the Pelican Island Reservation on Florida's east coast to protect a pelican colony.
The Service was reorganized by Congress in 1956 to comprise two entities, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. This Interior bureau is charged by law with responsibility for migratory birds, endangered species, certain marine mammals, inland sport fisheries, and specific fishery and wildlife research functions.
Why International Affairs?
Additionally, many of the U.S. species that the Service is placed to protect depend as much on the habitat conditions in foreign countries as the conditions in the U.S. To conserve these migratory species and their habitat, the Service thinks and acts internationally. Service activities overseas and in neighboring countries also meet U.S. Government obligations contained in numerous treaties, laws, agreements, and cooperative programs with other nations. One example is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which the U.S. has pledged itself as a sovereign state in the international community to conserve to the extent practicable the various species of fish or wildlife and plants facing extinction worldwide.
The Service is recognized as a worldwide leader in wildlife management and conservation. Its expertise in refuges, fisheries, endangered species management, enforcement and technology puts the Service in a unique position to influence and shape the outcome of wildlife conservation in other countries.