Back to Publications

A View of the Decision-Making Process Within the Department of the Interior

Robert L. McCarty, Proceedings of 12th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1967)

Any view of the decision-making process of the Department of the Interior must take into account the almost unbelievable range of affairs touching us that are within the jurisdiction of the Secretary, and the various bureaus and offices he controls. While one group may be particularly interested in the fashion in which the Secretary arrives at decisions on matters affecting the public lands and involving such matters as oil and gas and other minerals, timber, grazing, and similar items, the consideration of problems in this area should at least put them in the context of the great assortment of other Secretarial responsibilities which range from weather modification to zoology and from the Alaska Railroad to the Yuma Project. This tremendous scope of activity is mentioned for the reason that decisions within this arc can color decisions in the area of more immediate concern to us. Not infrequently, as one strand in this gigantic web is moved, another starts to vibrate.

There are really a number of processes of decision in the Department, ranging from the formalized adjudications of the Bureau of Land Management in mining claim contests to the informal adjudications on applications to operate concessions in the National Parks. Each is different; each raises its own problems, some of which are unique and some of which are similar to the problems faced by other subdivisio