A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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.