What does the Department of the interior do?
As the federal government's principal conservation agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior has responsibility for most of our nationally owned public lands and natural resources. Its stewardship has been largely skewed toward resource extraction. The environmental community has pushed the agency towards more environmental policies. From its establishment in 1849, the Department has managed many varied programs including Indian Affairs, administering land grants, improving historic western emigrant routes, marking boundaries, and conducting research on geological resources.
The Department is responsible for collecting revenues from the leasing of natural gas and oil resources, both offshore and onshore; from coal, timber, and grazing on Federal lands, and from numerous other sources, such as recreation fees. These programs criticized by environmental interests as damaging the natural aspects of the public lands which the government is supposed to protect. Additionally, the resource extraction programs are criticized for selling the resources for far too little.
The Department of the Interior is comprised of a number of bureaus and offices including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, the National Park Service, the Office of Surface Mining, the Office of Insular Affairs, and the Office of the Secretary.
Most of the federal forests are on national forest lands, controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, which is in the Agriculture Department. However, millions of acres of forests are on Bureau of Land Management Lands, National Park lands, and Fish and Wildlife Refuges, which are under the Department of Interior. Further, the Department of Interior has responsiblity for the Endangered Species Act and many other environmental laws, which affect all federal, state and private lands.
For additional information see the Annual Report.