July 16, 2013

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In 1803, the government of the United States, under the leadership of President Thomas Jefferson, acquired 828,000 square miles of France’s claim to the territory of Louisiana. The territory doubled the size of the United States, and encompassed millions of acres of unexplored land.

In his role as Secretary of the Treasury, NYU’s founder Albert Gallatin was tasked with planning the Lewis and Clark expedition, which mapped much of this new territory. After his service as Treasury Secretary was over, Gallatin even wrote a monumental treatise describing the characteristics, territories and languages of all known Native American tribes.

As the United States continued to expand in the decades before the Civil War, Gallatin’s contributions were essential to the creation of the Department of Interior in 1849. At first the Department was charged with 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.

Today, the DOI has $11 billion budget, 70,000 employees and stewardship of 20 percent of the territory of the United States with responsibilities that include supervising oil drilling on public lands and waters, protecting endangered species, managing millions of acres of public lands, coping with climate change and coordinating federal relations with hundreds of American Indian tribes.

NYU Dialogues welcomed the Department of Interior for the Inaugural Lewis and Clark Lectures. The lecture explored current issues facing the DOI, the implications of an increasingly urban U.S. populous, and the future of sustainable energy.

Meet the Panel

Tommy Beaudreau

Tommy Beaudreau

Image: Jonathan B. Jarvis

Jonathan B. Jarvis

Daniel Weiss

Daniel Weiss