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December 22, 2020
Department of the Interior (DOI) Law Enforcement Programs

DOI defines law enforcement officer as a “person who has
As of November 2020, the Department of the Interior (DOI)
entered the Federal service through established selection
employed nearly 3,400 law enforcement officers (LEOs)
criteria, has received professional training according to
assigned to seven distinct organizational units within five
published standards and has been commissioned or sworn
DOI bureaus (see Figure 1). These seven units are the
to perform law enforcement duties” (DOI Departmental
Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Bureau of Indian
Manual Part 446 Ch. 1). Generally, LEOs include
Affairs (BIA); Bureau of Reclamation (BOR); U.S. Fish
employees who are authorized to carry firearms, execute
and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) Office of Law Enforcement
and serve warrants, search for and seize evidence, make
(OLE) and Division of Refuge Law Enforcement (REF);
arrests, and perform such duties as authorized by law. The
National Park Service (NPS); and U.S. Park Police (USPP)
category broadly includes uniformed police officers,
within NPS. DOI’s law enforcement contingent is the
investigative agents, correctional officers, and various other
fourth-largest among executive branch departments, after
positions within DOI. It does not include DOI employees
the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and
classified under the security guard job series title, as these
Veterans Affairs.
positions generally do not have authority to take the
enforcement-related actions listed above.
Law enforcement on lands owned and administered by the
federal government is of perennial interest to Congress.
The specific duties of DOI LEOs can vary considerably
This includes issues related to funding, jurisdictional
based on the type (e.g., investigative agent vs. correctional
disputes between federal and non-federal law enforcement
officer), seniority (supervisory vs. nonsupervisory), and
agencies, and more recent concerns around excessive force
geographic location of the position. For example, in the
and police-community relations.
American Southwest, officers may spend considerable time
dealing with unauthorized recreational off-highway vehicle
Figure 1. Total DOI Law Enforcement Figures
users and archaeological resource crimes , whereas LEOs
(as of November 2020)
working in urbanized areas may be responsible for
managing special events and political demonstrations as
well as performing more general law enforcement duties.
Since 2001, DOI’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security
(OLES) has provided direction, oversight, and coordination
across the department’s various law enforcement units
(Secretarial Order No. 3234, Enhanced Coordination of
Department of the Interior Law Enforcement and Security
Bureau of Land Management
Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of
1976 (43 U.S.C. §§1701 et seq.), the Secretary of the
Interior is authorized to stand up a law enforcement body to
Source: Totals provided to CRS on November 18, 2020, by DOI for
enforce federal laws and regulations with respect to lands
al law enforcement units except USPP and BIA. USPP and BIA figures
and resources under BLM’s jurisdiction. As of November
taken from Office of Personnel Management FedScope database
2020, BLM employed 190 law enforcement rangers and 68
(OPM, FedScope, Employment Trend cubes, Cabinet-Level Agencies
special agents for a total of 258 LEOs. BLM rangers
parameter set to Department of the Interior, accessed November 21,
typically are responsible for the everyday enforcement of
2020, at
laws and regulations governing BLM lands and resources.
Notes: BLM = Bureau of Land Management; BIA = Bureau of Indian
Special agents typically are plainclothes criminal
Affairs; BOR = Bureau of Reclamation; OLE = U.S. Fish and Wildlife
investigators who plan and conduct investigations
Service – Office of Law Enforcement; REF = U.S. Fish and Wildlife
concerning possible violations on BLM lands.
Service – Division of Refuge Law Enforcement; NPS = National Park
Service; USPP = U.S. Park Police. Al totals reflect “on-board
Bureau of Indian Affairs
employment” figures, which calculate the number of employees in pay
Jurisdiction over offenses or crimes committed on tribal
status at the end of the quarter. Data for on-board employment
lands may lie with federal, state, or tribal agencies,
provides employee “head count” in most departments and agencies
depending on the offense, the offense location, and whether
as of a particular date, including ful -time, part-time, and seasonal
or not the offender or victim is an enrolled member of a
employees. Table does not reflect law enforcement officers employed
federally recognized tribe. Although most police
by DOI’s Office of Inspector General.
departments and detention centers on tribal lands are

Department of the Interior (DOI) Law Enforcement Programs
administered by tribes under their sovereign authorities,
However, USPP jurisdiction generally extends to all NPS
some are operated and administered by the BIA, largely
parklands nationwide. The USPP also has jurisdictional
under the authority of the Indian Law Enforcement Reform
authority in the surrounding metropolitan areas of the three
Act (25 U.S.C. §§2801-2809). As of 2019, roughly 9% of
cities in which it primarily operates, making it one of the
all police departments and 25% of detention centers on
few federal law enforcement units that possess both state
tribal lands were administered by the BIA (Bureau of
and federal authority. As of November 2020, USPP
Justice Statistics, Census of Tribal Law Enforcement,
employed 522 uniformed officers.
2019). Staff in BIA-administered police departments and
jails are considered federal employees rather than tribal
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
employees. As of November 2020, BIA employed 177
FWS’s law enforcement authority is derived from a number
uniformed police officers, 151 special agents, and 175
of federal wildlife statutes and from the implementation of
correctional officers, for a total of 503 LEOs.
selected international treaties. Two distinct law
enforcement units are responsible for enforcing such federal
Bureau of Reclamation
wildlife laws: the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and
In 2001, Congress provided the Secretary of the Interior
the Division of Refuge Law Enforcement (REF).
with the authority to use law enforcement personnel to
provide for the security of dams, facilities, and resources
Office of Law Enforcement
under BOR’s jurisdiction (43 U.S.C. §373b). Under this
The OLE is responsible for on-the-ground investigations
authority, BOR uses other federal, state, or local LEOs via
and wildlife inspection across the country. Federal law
contract or cooperative agreement to oversee and conduct
enforcement of wildlife crime originated with the Lacey
law enforcement activities. The only site that previously
Act of 1900 (16 U.S.C. §§3371-3378 and 18 U.S.C. §§42-
employed a full-time law enforcement unit administered
43) but has since expanded to include a variety of laws and
directly by BOR was the Hoover Dam office. Known as the
treaties. As of November 2020, OLE employed 212 special
Hoover Dam Police Department, the unit was established in
agents and 142 inspectors, for a total of 354 LEOs.
the early 1930s and operated under its own separate
Generally, special agents are plainclothes criminal
authority delegated to DOI and the agency from the General
investigators who enforce federal wildlife laws. Wildlife
Services Administration. In 2017, the unit was dissolved
inspectors oversee wildlife transiting through U.S. ports and
and law enforcement duties for the Hoover Dam were
identify and intercept illegal wildlife trade.
transferred to NPS. As of November 2020, BOR no longer
operates a law enforcement unit.
Division of Refuge Law Enforcement
The REF is responsible for providing general law
National Park Service
enforcement specifically on National Wildlife Refuge
NPS employees have long had a role in protecting national
System (NWRS) lands. This authority primarily derives
parklands and enforcing agency regulations, but they did
from the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration
not have express permission to “maintain law and order and
Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. §668dd(g)). As of November 2020,
to protect individuals and property within [National Park]
FWS employed 254 uniformed officers, generally referred
System units” until 1976, when Congress passed the
to as federal wildlife officers, on NWRS lands.
General Authorities Act (54 U.S.C. §102701). As of
November 2020, NPS employed 33 special agents, who
Additional DOI Law Enforcement
oversee criminal investigations as part of the agency’s
In addition to the seven law enforcement units, DOI’s
Investigative Services Branch, and 1,293 park rangers, who
Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is vested with law
are responsible for everyday law enforcement on NPS
enforcement authority pursuant to the Inspector General
lands. Although the title park ranger generally refers to a
Act of 1978, as amended (5 U.S.C. §6(e)(3)). However,
broad range of employee positions within NPS, the ranger
LEOs employed by DOI’s OIG, which investigate DOI
figures here reflect only those employees who are
programs and operations, generally are not considered one
specifically authorized to carry out law enforcement duties.
of DOI’s organizational LEO units. According to OPM’s
NPS also uses seasonal rangers who conduct similar duties
Fedscope database, the OIG employed 79 LEOs as of
to permanent rangers, typically for a period of several
November 2020.
months. As of November 2020, NPS employed 149
seasonal LEOs, for a total of 1,475 LEOs ; however, this
DOI agencies are also generally authorized to designate
number may be higher during the summer months, when
federal law enforcement personnel to act in areas within
seasonal LEO employment is at its peak.
their jurisdiction. This includes shared or supplemental
LEO support between DOI agencies, as well as with other
U.S. Park Police
federal agencies with appropriate authority. Agencies also
The USPP is one of the oldest uniformed federal law
regularly cooperate and contract with local sheriff’s offices,
enforcement units, with its origins dating back to the late
as well as state and tribal authorities, to provide law
1700s, when they were referred to as watchmen and
enforcement on federal lands and areas within their
charged with safeguarding public buildings in the nation’s
responsibility or control. Such agreements may allow for
capital. Congress formally established the USPP in 1919
certain officers to be cross-deputized to expand jurisdiction
(41 Stat. 364) and transferred the USPP to NPS
and capacity for federal and non-federal authorities.
administration in 1924 (43 Stat. 175). The USPP primarily
oversees law enforcement on national parklands in
Mark K. DeSantis, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
Washington, DC; New York City; and San Francisco.

Department of the Interior (DOI) Law Enforcement Programs

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