The U.S. Department of The Interior: Land, People, and Emergency Management

Posted by

By: Giovanni Gaglianese ’23

The government is full of agencies that we all know. Lay people, and legal professionals alike, know about the common entities of the federal government like the U.S. Department of Justice or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, until this summer I did not know much about the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Because of a summer public interest internship at the University at Buffalo School of Law, that would change for the better.

DOI is the biggest landowner and holder of non-renewable resources in the nation. DOI is an enforcer of and compliant actor with a myriad of statutes from the Endangered Species Act to the Federal Land and Policy Management, the National Environmental Policy Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (also known as Superfund), the Clean Water Act, and more. DOI has other responsibilities, including firefighting, and land management. Clerking for the DOI has been a crash course in so many of these federal authorities and the complexities they bring.

That is why I would like to thank the generous donors Francis M. Letro ’79 & Cindy Abbott Letro Fellowship, which gave me a chance to have this public interest internship. Thank you to everyone at the University at Buffalo School of Law who made the fellowship possible. Also, a special thanks to Kathleen Carr and Stephanie Balzarini who made my time with DOI more than worthwhile and ensured I experience a diversity of work from the various divisions of Interior.

The most crucial realization that I gained was that environmental law and resource management can be a complex but rewarding practice. Operating as an attorney in the Solicitor’s Office meant acting as an advisor as much performing as legal expert. Because the DOI works with states and local entities, many stakeholders have various competing needs, and practicality can go a long way to ensure coordination and to preempt many conflicts.

For instance, climate change and drought have limited water across the states, so federal decisions about usage can be tumultuous. In other instances, DOI has to balance pragmatic efficiency with environmental ideals and aspirations we all hold. Legal work at DOI proceeds in the face of administrability to expanding pushes for broader compliance, legal frameworks that push for a healthy environment, and federalist cooperation with various legal obligations. My time this summer at the Department of the Interior has allowed me to take a glimpse into the interactions and obstacles addressing infrastructure, fire emergency management, Clean Water Cct precedent, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Name: Giovanni Gaglianese ’23

Name of Fellowship: Francis M. Letro ’79 & Cindy Abbott Letro Fellowship

Placement: The Department of The Interior

Location: Boise, ID

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: The most crucial realization that I gained was that environmental law and resource management can be a complex but rewarding practice.”