021 FW 1, Creation and Scope of Activities


FWM#:     003 (new)
Date:        November 8, 1991
Series:      Organization and History
Part 021:  Department of the Interior
Originating Office: Division of Policy and Directives Management


1.1 Creation. The Department of the Interior was created by act of Congress on March 3, 1849. Transferred to the new Department were the General Land Office, the Office of Indian Affairs, the Pension Office, and the Patent Office. The Department was also given responsibility for supervision over the Commissioner of Public Buildings; the Board of Inspectors and the Warden of the Penitentiary of the District of Columbia; the census of the United States; the accounts of marshals and other officers of the United States Court; and the accounts of lead and other mines of the United States.

1.2 Functions. Over the years there were added to the original functions of the Department such activities as education, hospitals and charitable institutions, labor, railroad accounts, commercial fisheries, water pollution control, and interstate commerce. The creation of other executive departments and certain independent agencies later assigned these activities elsewhere; and the role of the Department gradually changed from that of general housekeeper for the Federal Government to that of custodian of the Nation's natural resources.  The functions of the Department are now concerned principally with the management, conservation, and development of natural resources.

Under the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended, and related legislation, the Secretary has been delegated responsibilities relating to metals and minerals.  Within these areas of responsibility, the Department is authorized to perform functions relating to voluntary agreements; priorities; requirements; allocations; and expansion of productive capacity and supply through accelerated tax amortization, loans, loan guarantees, commitments to purchase, and purchases.  These functions also include the operation of a program designed to encourage exploration for critical and strategic minerals and metals.

1.3 Mission. As the Nation's principal conservation agency, the Department of the Interior has responsibility for most of our nationally-owned public lands and natural and cultural resources.  This includes fostering wise use of our land and water resources, protecting our fish and wildlife, preserving the environmental and cultural values of our national parks and historical places, and providing for the enjoyment of life through outdoor recreation.  The Department assesses our energy and mineral resources and works to assure that their development is in the best interests of all our people.  The Department also promotes the goals of the Take Pride in America campaign by encouraging stewardship and citizen responsibility for the public lands and promoting citizen participation in their care.  The Department also has a major responsibility for American Indian reservation communities and for people who live in Island Territories under U.S. Administration.

1.4  Objectives.  In formulating and administering its programs the Department pursues the following objectives:

A.  Efficient use of natural resources.

B. Assurance of recources to meet the requirements of national security and an expanding economy.

C. Maintenance of production capacity.

D. Equitable distribution of benefits from nationally owned resources.

E. Discouragement of wasteful exploitation.

F. Effective use of recreation resources.

G. Orderly incorporation of Indian groups and individuals into the national society and economy.

H. Full participation in national life by the people of the territories.

I. Promotion of the goals of Take Pride in America by:

        (1) Increasing awareness of the importance of wise use of public lands and natural and cultural resources;

        (2) Encouraging an attitude of stewardship and responsibility toward public lands and resources; and,

        (3) Promoting participation by individuals, organizations and communities in caring for public lands and resources.

1.5  Jurisdiction.  The jurisdiction of the Department includes:

A. Administration of over 500 million acres of Federal land.

B. Trust responsibilities for approximately 50 million acres of land (mostly Indian reservations).

C. Conservation and development of mineral and water resources.

D. Conservation, development, and utilization of fish and wildlife resources.

E. Coordination of Federal and State recreation programs.

F. Preservation and administration of the Nation's scenic, historic, and recreational areas.

G. Operation of Job Corps Conservation Centers, Youth Conservation Corps Camps, and coordination of other manpower and youth training programs.

H. Irrigation of arid lands in the West.

I. Socioeconomic development of the territories of the United States and of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

J. Administration of programs which provide services to Indians and Alaska Native people.


For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management, at Krista_Bibb@fws.gov 
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