November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
The first Interior Building, 1852 -1917. The Patent Office building, today housing the Smithsonian Institution's Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art, served as DOI headquarters.
In 1789 Congress created three Executive Departments: Foreign Affairs (later in the same year renamed State), Treasury, and War. It also provided for an Attorney General and a Postmaster General. Domestic matters were apportioned by Congress 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,and 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.
Some significant dates:
1849 Creation of the Home Department consolidating the General Land Office (Department of the Treasury), the Patent Office (Department of State), the Indian Affairs Office (War Department) and the military pension offices (War and Navy Departments). Subsequently, Interior functions expand to include the census, regulation of territorial governments, exploration of the western wilderness, and management of the D.C. jail and water system.
1850-1857 Interior's Mexican Boundary Commission establishes the international boundary with Mexico.
1856-1873 Interior's Pacific Wagon Road Office improved the historic western emigrant routes.
1869 Interior began its geological survey of the western Territories with the Hayden expedition. The Bureau of Education is placed under Interior (later transferred to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare).
1872 Congress establishes Yellowstone as the first National Park.
1873 Congress transferred territorial oversight from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Interior.
1920 The Mineral Leasing Act establishes the government's right to rental payments and royalties on oil, gas, and minerals production.
1925 The Patent Office is transferred to the Department of Commerce.
1930 The Bureau of Pensions is transferred to the Veterans Administration.
1934 The Taylor Grazing Act is enacted to regulate economic uses of public lands. The first Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp is issued. The Indian Reorganization Act abolishes the allotment system established in 1887, forms tribal governments, and affirms the Secretary's trust responsibilities. Oversight of Alaska, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico is transferred to Interior.
1935 The Bureau of Reclamation completes construction of Hoover Dam.
1977 The is established to oversee state regulation of strip coal mining and repair of environmental damage.
1980 The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act is enacted adding 47 million acres to the National Park System and 54 acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
1982 The Minerals Management Service (now known as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement) is established to facilitate mineral revenue collection and manage the Outer Continental Shelf offshore lands.
1993 The President convened the Northwest Forest Plan Summit and released the "Forest Plan for a Sustainable Economy and Sustainable Environment."
1996 Interior science and technology functions are consolidated in the U.S. Geological Survey.
2001 Gale A. Norton is nominated the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Interior.
2010 Secretary Ken Salazar signs order 3302, renaming the Minerals Management Service as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.