What Do You Know About Interior: Test your knowledge

Inspired by Dan Farber’s recent quiz about EPA, here is a similar challenge for the Department of Interior. The questions go from easier to harder (and more obscure). The last question will really test your knowledge.

But first some quick history. The Department of the Interior was created by Congress in 1849. As the Department’s website recounts, its original mandates were a real grab bag of responsibilities taken from other departments, 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.”


1.  Who is the current Secretary of the Interior? 

  1. Ken Salazar
  2. Gale Norton
  3. Sally Jewell
  4. Lisa Jackson


2.  What was the first National Park?

  1. Yellowstone
  2. Hot Springs
  3. Mackinack Island
  4. Yosemite


3.  Approximately how many employees serve in Interior?

  1. 40,000
  2. 50,000
  3. 60,000
  4. 70,000


 4.  What is the only state without a National Park Service Unit?

  1. Delaware
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Connecticut
  4. Ohio


 5.  Which agency is NOT located within Interior?

  1. Bureau of Indian Affairs
  2. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  3. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
  4. U.S. Forest Service


6.  The Endangered Species Act is administered by an agency within Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

True or False


7.  Secretaries of the Interior have traditionally been someone from the western United States (though a number of have come from the Midwest). Rogers Morton was appointed Secretary in 1971 from Maryland. Who (and when) had been the previous Secretary from the east coast?

  1. Cornelius Newton Bliss, 1897
  2. Walter Lowrie Fisher, 1911
  3. Albert Bacon Fall, 1921
  4. Harold Ickes, 1933


8.  The seal of Interior features a buffalo. Which direction is the buffalo facing (and what does James Watt have to do with this story)?

  1. Left
  2. Right
  3. Straight ahead
  4. To the heavens



 1. 3. Sally Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary in 2013. She had formerly served as President and CEO of the outdoor retail company, REI.

 2. 2. Congress established Hot Springs Reservation, Arkansas, on April 20, 1832, making it the first area to be set aside by the federal government for its natural features.  Yellowstone was established as a national park in 1872. Yosemite started as a state park, though Lincoln singed a grant protecting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in 1864. It became a national park in 1890. 

 3. 4. By contrast, EPA has roughly 15,000 employees.

 4. 1. Pretty ironic for one of the original states.

 5. 4. This often surprises students. The Bureau of Forestry was transferred from Interior to the Department of Agriculture in 1905, becoming the Forest Service. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement formerly were part of the Minerals Management Service. They were separated into separate agencies in the reorganization following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

 6. False. Admittedly, this is kind of a trick question. Most of the species under the ESA are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. NOAA Fisheries, located within the Department of Commerce, manages the 129 endangered and threatened marine species.

 7. 1. Harold Ickes, the famed New Deal administrator, was appointed from Illinois and served 13 years.

 8. 1. James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Interior, changed the seal in 1982 so that the buffalo faced right. His press secretary commented that “He thought the right side should have equal time.” Jay Hair, head of the National Wildlife Federation, retorted that “’The fact that he didn’t replace the buffalo with a bulldozer indicates that at long last James Watt may be moderating his views toward wildlife.”


Reader Comments

3 Replies to “What Do You Know About Interior: Test your knowledge”

  1. Jim, not quite a year ago, the answer to question 4 changed. Congress established First State National Historical Park to remedy Delaware’s absence on the national park units map in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The answer today to question 4 is “none”. How about substituting this gem of Interior trivia: “Who was the only Interior Secretary to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court?”

    1. Hi Rob, Thanks for the correction! It’s about time Delaware got some NPS respect.

      And your new question has me stumped. What’s the answer?

      1. It was one of the non-westerners: Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II. He served as Interior Secretary from 1885-88 and then Supreme Court justice from 1888-93. Fancy that!

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About Jim

James Salzman is the Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Law and at the Bren School of the Environment …

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About Jim

James Salzman is the Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Law and at the Bren School of the Environment …

READ more