The Department of Natural Resources was established in 1930, when responsibility for natural resources was transferred from the federal Department of the Interior to the provincial government under The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement dated May 20, 1930.
The Department was originally administered by a Minister and Deputy Minister and consisted of four branches: Lands; Mines; Fisheries; and Forestry. The head office for the Department was in Regina, with a main Northern District office in Prince Albert and sub-district offices in Hudson Bay Junction and Spruce Lake.
The Lands Branch was overseen by a director. Between May 1, 1943, and April 30, 1944, four divisions were established within the branch: Sales; Cultivated Lease; Grazing; Patents and Homesteads. The Mines Branch, Fisheries Branch and Forestry Branch for the most part retained their administrative structure.
A Water Rights Branch was established between May 1931 and April 1932. In 1933 responsibility for provincial parks was transferred from the Forestry Branch, resulting in the establishment of the Water Rights and Parks Branch. Between May 1, 1936, and April 1937, the branch was split into the Water Rights Branch and Parks Branch.
A Surveys Division was established between May 1, 1932, and April 30, 1933. It became the Surveys Branch for a period between May 1, 1936, and April 1, 1937.
The Game Branch was established May 1, 1932, and operated until April 30, 1933, when the function was transferred to the department from the Bureau of Labour and Public Welfare. During 1938-1939, the Game and Fur Branch was established within the department.
Responsibility for the Provincial Museum was transferred to the department for the period from May 1, 1934, to April 30, 1935.
The poor economic performance and drought of the 1930s resulted in less forest and mineral revenue for the Department and an active role in the provision of relief measures. These included the cancellation of debt owed on School lands and the distribution of coal, timber, hay and grazing areas to farmers.
The Coal Administration Branch was established in 1935 to centralize the control, regulation and administration of coal mining. Administration of The Coal Mines Safety and Welfare Act was transferred from the Bureau of Labour and Public Welfare while the coal regulations under The Mineral Resources Act formerly administered by Mines Branch moved to the new branch.
By 1940, the initial four branches had expanded to ten: Forestry, Mines, Fisheries, Game and Fur, Water Rights, Surveys, Museum, Coal, Lands, and Parks.
During the Second World War, the Department assisted federal initiatives such as the Dominion Wartime Price and Trade Board in monitoring the price and distribution of basic commodities and resources to ensure use in both the domestic market and the war effort.
On November 10, 1944, the Department of Natural Resources was reorganized into the Department of Natural Resources and Industrial Development.