March 3, 1849: The U.S. Department of Interior is founded, uniting several agencies including the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Agriculture, which later becomes its own Cabinet-level department. The Interior Department eventually includes a host of sub-agencies including the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
March 3, 1879: The U.S. Geological Survey is founded, and Grand Canyon explorer John Wesley Powell is the survey's first leader.
March 3, 1899: The Rivers and Harbors Act is passed by Congress and later signed by President William McKinley. A section of this law — the oldest environmental law in the U.S. — is called the Refuse Act and calls for criminal penalties for dumping in waterways and rewards for those who turn in dumpers. Mostly ignored until the 1960s, the law is leveraged in the fight to clean up the Hudson River.
March 3, 1966: Future President Ronald Reagan, running for governor of California, outlines his opposition to expanding Redwood National Park in an interview with the Sacramento Bee: "A tree is a tree. How many more do you need to see?"
Photo: Fish and Wildlife Service
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