The United States Secretary of the Interior oversees the United States Department of the Interior, a branch of government which is focused on conserving and managing federally owned lands. A number of government services fall under the authority of the Department of the Interior, ranging from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the National Parks Service. Because the Secretary of the Interior oversees a very large and diverse government department, the position can have some very unique demands.
The Secretary of the Interior is a member of the Presidential Cabinet. As such, he or she is in line for the succession of the Presidency, although it would take a rather catastrophic event for the Presidency to fall to the Secretary of the Interior, as he or she is eighth in line. Like other officials in cabinet-level positions, the Secretary of the Interior must be confirmed in the Senate before he or she can take office. During confirmation hearings, members of the Senate typically ask questions which are designed to determine whether or not the nominee is suitable for the position.
Numerous agencies are run by the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the United States Geological Survey, the Office of Surface Mining, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. These organizations are responsible for protecting federal lands and ensuring that they are used in sustainable and beneficial ways. Their mandates typically include directives to ensure that all Americans have access to federally owned lands, ranging from the nation's prized National Parks to the open stretches of land in the American West which are leased to cattle ranchers.
Like other employs in government administration, the Secretary of the Interior often comes from a political background. Former secretaries have served in State and Federal government, for example, and some have served as lawyers or they have worked in some branch of the environmental field. The political appointment of this post can be quite controversial, as he or she may make decisions in office which will have a long-term impact on Americans, such as decisions about mining, drilling for oil, clearcutting, or laying roads.
As one might imagine, the Secretary of the Interior is assisted by a very large support staff. The Department of the Interior employs thousands of Americans, who work in a variety of fields from geology to forestry. The budget for the department typically runs in the billions of dollars, with funds supporting a wide variety of initiatives from installing restrooms in National Parks to providing education grants to Native Americans.